KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas had just been battered by Oklahoma State for the second time this season, a humiliating loss in Stillwater that sent the Jayhawks into the Big 12 Tournament rubbing their bruised egos.
Then the Cowboys raced out to a 10-point lead in their quarterfinal matchup.
Rather than fold, though, the ninth-ranked Jayhawks showed the kind of toughness they’ve been missing much of this season. Malik Newman scored a career-high 30 points, their backup big men made up for the absence of injured center Udoka Azubuike, and coach Bill Self’s squad pulled away in the second half for an 82-68 victory over the Cowboys on Thursday.
“This team is easy to nitpick with because when we’re good, it’s magnified in ways because we can shoot and move the ball, and when we’re bad it’s magnified because we don’t do the things in grind-it-out games that a lot of teams do,” Self said. “Sometimes I think we get a little spoiled on what our expectations are, but I’m real proud of them. I think they competed hard for the most part.”
Svi Mykhailiuk added 13 points and Devonte Graham had 10 points, four rebounds and nine assists for the No. 1 seed Jayhawks (25-7), who were swept by the Cowboys (19-14) in the regular season. But they rose to the occasion when it mattered, setting up a date with Kansas State on Friday.
The Wildcats beat TCU in an overtime thriller earlier Thursday.
“We just wanted to come out, be aggressive and play tough,” Newman said, “because we haven’t played tough against those guys. We wanted to execute, have fun and be tough.”
Jeffrey Carroll scored 17 points and Kendall Smith had 14 for the No. 8 seed Cowboys, who can only hope their opening-round win over Oklahoma solidified their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re a tournament team. We’ve proven that all season long,” Smith said. “Especially to see the kind of basketball we’re playing right now, I definitely think we should get in.”
Azubuike sprained the MCL in his left knee in practice Tuesday, causing him to miss the entire weekend. The Jayhawks hope to have him back for the NCAA Tournament next week.
Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds in his place.
“We showed we can play without Doke,” Mykhailiuk said. “We can still win.”
Oklahoma State threatened to run the Jayhawks out of the building early on, just as it did in an 82-64 rout in Stillwater on Saturday. Yakuba Sima took advantage of the inside space where Azubuike usually roams, and Carroll’s 3-point barrage gave Oklahoma State an early 10-point lead.
That’s when the Jayhawks finally caught fire, going on an 18-4 charge to turn things around. It was Newman leading the way with a trio of 3-pointers, part of his 20 first-half points.
He kept the hot hand going early in the second half, scoring seven points during another big run — this one 14-0 — that made it 66-50 and forced Cowboys coach Mike Boynton to call timeout.
Boynton said after his team’s rough-and-tumble win over the Sooners that he didn’t buy into the notion that beating a team three times was any more difficult than beating it once. But Boynton didn’t address the challenge that comes with winning two games in fewer than 24 hours.
With 15 minutes left against Kansas, the Cowboys’ legs looked shot.
The Jayhawks’ game-breaking run coincided with a scoreless drought for Oklahoma State that went on for more than 7 1/2 minutes. At one point midway through the half, the Cowboys were 4 for 17 from the floor and had made more turnovers (five) than field goals.
Oklahoma State made a couple of late runs, but he Jayhawks were never in danger of letting their lead slip, locking up at least 25 wins for an NCAA-record 13th consecutive season.
“I won’t say fatigue wasn’t a factor,” Boynton said, “but we knew that coming in. We put ourselves in that scenario and Kansas earned the right to have the extra day of rest.”
Oklahoma State had a 53-27 rebounding advantage against Oklahoma. But the Cowboys only had a 36-33 edge against Kansas, even with Azubuike out with the knee injury.
Kansas set a school record for 3-pointers in a season (319) when Lagerald Vick knocked one down with 3:49 to go. The Jayhawks have relied on the outside shot all year, but it came in handy with their biggest post presence sitting on the bench.
Oklahoma State waits anxiously to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
Kansas tries to beat the Wildcats for the third time this season.
While the final standings of the Big 12 may have been predictable, the conference’s tournament is going to be anything but. When a league is projected to get up to 80 percent of its members into the NCAA tournament, “anything is possible” isn’t a cliche or tired slogan, it’s honestly a reality.
Kansas won its 14th-straight Big 12 regular season title, setting the standard for dominance in this recent era, but the Jayhawks did it this season without an overwhelming talent or athletic advantage that has so often been the mark of Bill Self’s teams. In fact, there was a fleeting moment when it looked like the Jayhawks’ streak may come to an end. It was a moment, albeit a silly one.
The story of the Big 12 tournament is that there are legitimately nine teams that conceivably could be the last one standing at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and the 10th-place team, Iowa State, has been beset by injuries but the Cyclones have won three of the last four Big 12 tournaments, boast a fanbase that invades Kansas City and have three wins over ranked teams themselves.
So the question becomes not only who will win the Big 12 tournament, but how many teams will the league get into the Big Dance? If it’s eight, that will set a record for highest percentage of a conference’s teams earning bids ever. Things may have to break just right – and if they break perfectly maybe we’re talking about nine – that might be the most likely scenario, not just a long-shot one.
It’s the Big 12. Who knows what’s going to happen?
Despite having perhaps his weakest and most ill-fitting roster, Bill Self got the Jayhawks on top of the heap once again, even giving them enough leeway that dropping a second game to Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale didn’t hurt them. Kansas may not look like one of heavy national title contenders – despite being in line for a one-seed – in the eyes of most, but there’s pretty convincing argument that this is the most impressive of the Jayhawks’ 14 titles, especially when you consider the strength of the rest of the league
Still, the Jayhawks are vulnerable on a number of fronts. The defense can be beat, they’re 3-point dependent and Self has struggled to motivate some of his players at different times this season, complaining about effort and focus.
They’re the favorite, but not an overwhelming one.
If Keenan Evans doesn’t get hurt, we very well could be talking about Texas Tech as the team that finally ended Kansas’ reign. After looking like a potential Big 12 player of the year, a toe injury sapped Evans’ ability to the point where a player who was routinely putting up 30 a night suddenly couldn’t even crack double-digits. It’s not surprising the Red Raiders lost four-straight – and a potential conference crown – with Evans on the mend.
Evans, after missing a game against West Virginia, returned over the weekend and got 23 against TCU, signalling he may be ready to go this week and keep Kansas from winning another Big 12 title this season.
The other frontrunner here has to be Bob Huggins and West Virginia. The Mountaineers had a late-January lull, but have otherwise been solid. They don’t make a ton of shots, but here’s betting their style of play can wear down opponents in a game-a-day format.
WHO NEEDS A WIN THE MOST?
It’s easily Oklahoma. Sure, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State could all use a dub, but the Sooners would be toying with an epic and embarrassing collapse if they lose in the first round and somehow find themselves outside the Field of 68. This is a team that spent much of the season’s first two months looking like a Final Four contender while Trae Young carved up the country.
Now the Sooners are hanging on for dear life having lost seven of their last nine and Young looking completely human. They could lose to Oklahoma State on Wednesday and still sneak in, but they’ve got the most to lose should they falter.
WHO IS ON THE BUBBLE?
The Sooners’ spot is tenuous while Kansas State and Baylor both have to be thinking that one win in Kansas City ought to get them in the field. Oklahoma State probably will need a couple wins to counteract a non-conference schedule that features a win over Florida State and not a whole lot else. The good news for the Cowboys is it looks like they just might have the Jayhawks’ number should the two teams meet in Thursday’s quarterfinal.
When Jaylen Fisher went down to injury, it was a major blow to TCU, but the Horned Frogs come to KC playing good ball. They fell to Texas Tech in the finale in Lubbock, but had won four-straight before that. Their offense is absolutely elite with plenty of shooters around Vlad Brodziansky, who can step out and stroke it himself. TCU’s defense may be suspect, but the way they can spread you out and fill it up makes them a sneaky pick to be hoisting a trophy Saturday night.
PLAYER TO WATCH
I know you’re probably tired of hearing and reading about him, but no player has more at stake at the Sprint Center than Trae Young. It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t mention his name without quickly comparing him to Steph Curry, and it was just a few weeks back when his lead in the national player of the year race looked insurmountable.
Young’s legacy as a college player will be decided in the next couple weeks. Well, it could be if the Sooners’ season doesn’t end Wednesday night. Whatever struggles Young has had the last few weeks – and he was right when he said he gets guarded like no other player in the country – he can quiet all his critics with one monster month of March.
– Teams are going to key on Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk and surround Udoka Azubuike, so Kansas is going to need to get contributions from Malik Newman. If Newman can provide some pop offensively, Kansas will be in good shape.
– How healthy is Mo Bamba? The Texas freshman is dealing with a toe injury that coach Shaka Smart said makes him questionable heading into play this week. The Longhorns may not need Bamba to get past Iowa State in their opener, but if they have designs on making a serious run this week, they’re going to need their man in the middle. When he’s on his game and playing at his best, he has the ability to completely change the dynamic of a game.
– Try making sense of Baylor. The Bears opened Big 12 play with 2-7 mark before reeling off five-straight to get back in to the NCAA tournament conversation. Now, though, Scott Drew’s team has lost three of its last four. The team that won five straight can win this thing. The team that started and finished the Big 12 slate could easily go out Thursday.
NBC SPORTS BIG 12 HONORS
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Devonte Graham, Kansas
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Self, Kansas
FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG 12
Devonte Graham, Kansas
Trae Young, Oklahoma
Keenan Evans, Texas Tech
Jevon Carter, West Virginia
Mohamed Bamba, Texas
SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG 12
Dean Wade, Kansas State
Sagaba Konate, West Virginia
Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas
Manu Lecomte, Baylor
Barry Brown, Kansas State
Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans ‘day-to-day’ with toe injury
It would appear that sixth-ranked Texas Tech may have avoided its worst-case scenario with star guard Keenan Evans.
The senior is considered day-to-day with a toe injury suffered Saturday in a loss at Baylor, and could play as soon as Wednesday against Oklahoma State, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said Monday.
“It’s going to come down to just pain tolerance and can he move,” Beard said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We all know Keenan is a warrior. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to play. … At the end of the day, just kind of how he reacts to his body.”
Tech coach Chris Beard on Evans: “It’s going to come down to just pain tolerance and can he move. We all know Keenan is a warrior. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to play. … At the end of the day, just kind of how he reacts to his body.”
Evans is averaging 18.2 points per game for the Red Raiders, and his health is paramount for their attempt to unseat Kansas atop the Big 12. Texas Tech and the Jayhawks are locked in a first-place tie with matching 10-4 league records with four games to play. After the Red Raiders’ trip to Stillwater on Wednesday, they host Kansas on Saturday in a game that very well could decide the fate of the Jayhawks’ 13-year run of conference championships.
While the Big 12 race is certainly front of mind, the fact that Evans is potentially going to be able to play this week is a great sign for Texas Tech. Even if Evans does need to miss a game or two to get his toe fully healthy, the timeline and conditions Beard laid out Monday suggest that he’ll be good to go before the NCAA tournament for a Red Raiders team that certainly is a contender to finish its season in its home state – at the Final Four in San Antonio.
NEW FACES, NEW PLACES: Which college hoops hires are set up for success … and failure?
Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Making a coaching hire is more than just winning the press conference.
A jolt of energy and excitement into a program is nice, but ultimately fit between coach and program – from personality to style to recruiting footprint – will decide which programs flourish and which flounder.
Here are five coaches and programs that are set up to succeed with their new arraignment …
… and five that look destined for trouble.
1. ARCHIE MILLER, Indiana: Plenty of programs came calling for Archie Miller over the years as he piled up wins and NCAA tournament bids, but none could. Until Indiana came open, offering more than $3 million and the chance to take the reigns of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the history of college basketball. The Hoosiers and Miller are a match that seems destined to work.
The Hoosiers aren’t likely to contend atop the Big Ten this year as the roster just isn’t built for instant success, if it were, Tom Crean would likely still be installed in Bloomington, but this ranking is based on instant success. Indiana was only able to get Miller to leave Dayton because it offers one of college basketball’s best jobs, and Indiana only wanted Miller because he’s proven to be one of the sport’s best young coaches.
The only question is if Miller can recruit at a level commensurate to his new position, something he didn’t have to do in Dayton. Given his reputation and the resources available to him at Indiana, that seems like a sure bet.
2. CHRIS HOLTMANN, Ohio State: Holtmann is in much the same situation as Miller, taking over at an accomplished program with a huge athletic department budget but a slump success recently. Holtmann took over the Butler program in 2014 amid difficult circumstances when Brandon Miller took a medical leave of absence, and keep the program humming along, going to three-straight NCAA tournaments as a single-digit seed as the Bulldogs navigated their transition to the Big East.
Ohio State has missed back-to-back NCAA tournaments, but Thad Matta’s program has proven that winning at an elite level in Columbus can be done with regularity and over an extended period of time. The Buckeyes’ recruiting footprint has a plethora of talented players living within it, and it’s one Holtmann is well acquainted with having spent nearly his entire career in the midwest. This pairing is a natural fit, and one that should pay major dividends.
3. BRAD UNDERWOOD, Illinois: The third Big Ten coach on here, but Underwood is another proven winner with the chops to get it done. Underwood maxed out Oklahoma State in his lone season in Stillwater, getting Jawun Evans into the NBA draft and helping Jeffrey Carroll blossom into an all-Big 12 player. He’s shown he can develop players at a high level and has the Xs-and-Os acumen to accumulate a 109-27 in his four years as a head coach.
Underwood has already experienced the good and the bad of recruiting his new home state as the Illini pulled five-star point guard Ayo Dosunmo from Chicago, but that reportedly caused their recruitment of another Chicago kid, four-star wing Talen Horton-Tucker, to go sideways. Whatever the truth about what really happened, it illustrates the potential politics and landmines that exist when recruiting the Windy City. If Underwood can do that, and getting Dosunmu suggests that he and his staff can to at least some degree, Champaign could become a destination and Illinois could regain its place among Big Ten contenders. That is, of course, assuming that there’s no carryover to Underwood from his former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans’ arrest by the FBI last month.
4. MIKE RHOADES, VCU: VCU has proven itself to be one of the best jobs outside of a Power 5 conference over the last decade-plus. Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant had enough sucess to jump to a high-major job after four and three seasons, respectively, and Shaka Smart became one of the most sought-after coaches in the country after just a pair of seasons before jumping to resource-rich and expectation-light Texas after five-straight NCAA tournaments. Most recently, Will Wade turned VCU into LSU after just a pair of seasons.
Rhoades seems primed to take advantage of the situation, not in that he’ll look to make a jump from Richmond to a Power 5, but to use the foundation already in place to keep VCU atop the Atlantic 10 and relevant nationally. He’s a former Smart assistant that spent a decade coaching in the DIvision III ranks. Seemingly any coach VCU hires is set up for success, but Rhoades appears to be a seamless fit.
5. CUONZO MARTIN, Missouri: Missouri may have slid into mediocrity – and under Kim Anderson well past it – for much of the past decade, but the Tigers’ job is one with plenty of potential. And Martin looks poised to make the most of his fourth head coaching job in 10 years by taking the shortcut to success that was hiring Michael Porter, Sr., which landed him a potential No. 1 draft pick in Michael Porter, Jr. and five-star Center Jontay Porter. Plus Missouri landed Jeremiah Tilmon, an Illinois defection.
Landing the highly-talented sons of an assistant coach may not be the most sustainable way to success, but it’s a heck of a jump start. If you can get the two Porter brothers, you do it and figure out the future later. Nothing breeds success like success, and Martin’s strategy should bring some immediately to Columbia.
1. MIKE BOYNTON, Oklahoma State: Brad Underwood bounced from Oklahoma State after feeling like the Sooners were skimping on him financially, declining to give him a significant raise from the below-market $1 million salary after taking the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. In response…Oklahoma State apparently went the fiscally conservative route of simply elevating Boynton from assistant to the head job for a similar amount of money.
Whether or not Boynton is the man for the job is hard to say, but the perspective here is that Oklahoma State just went the cheap route, declining to invest in its hoops program. That’s a tough way to start a tenure, but making it even more difficult is that outside Jeff Carroll, there’s not a ton of talent in Stillwater. Oh, then there’s the small matter of an FBI investigation into corruption that has ensnared Oklahoma State and resulted in the firing of assistant Lamont Evans. Not ideal for anyone’s first head coaching gig.
2. WYKING JONES, California: Jones’ circumstances aren’t that far off from Boynton’s. They both succeeded coaches who found themselves on the better end of these two lists, and both are going to be making $1 million a year (a relatively small number by Power 5 standards) to try to improve a basketball situation that is less than ideal. Again, tough spot to start your head coaching career.
Jones’ roster is almost completely turning over, making this pretty much a full-scale rebuild. The Bears will need some serious recruiting wins in the next year or two for Jones to get things pointed in the right direction.
3. BRIAN DUTCHER, San Diego State: Dutcher was right by Steve Fisher’s side for all 18 years that Fisher was in southern California, turning the Aztecs into a relevant program. SDSU went to six-straight NCAA tournaments from 2010-15, including get a two-seed in 2011.
Fisher’s retirement, though, comes on the heels of back-to-back NCAA tournament misses in which the Aztecs fell from 28 wins to 19. Dutcher certainly has the resume that warrants getting this job, but it’s also fair to wonder if the program needs a breath of fresh air.
4. PATRICK EWING, Georgetown: Ewing is very respected in coaching circles after spending his post-playing career under some of the top NBA minds, but returning Georgetown back to prominence will take a lot more than being a bright basketball thinker. Ewing has never recruited, and that will be his biggest hurdle in trying to get the Hoyas in the mix both in the Big East.
There’s also the strangeness of the whole situation, which is really what makes this a tough spot more than anything. Ewing is succeeding John Thompson III, the son of the man, John Thompson II, who turned Georgetown into a national power and coached Ewing as a Hoya. That’s awkward. It’s even more awkward if Georgetown doesn’t win big relatively quickly. There’s reason for optimism (though pulling out of the PK-80 would suggest maybe not this year), but there’s a ton of expectation on an unproven head coach who has to navigate some tricky politics. It is D.C., after all.
5. BRIAN GREGORY, South Florida: Gregory turned a solid run at Dayton into a gig at Georgia Tech, where he missed the NCAA tournament each year and just twice was over .500. It’s difficult to see how he’ll have much better luck with the Bulls. The AAC got stronger this year with the inclusion of Wichita State while Houston and SMU continue to build their programs to compete with the historical powers like Memphis and UConn, who are both down now but seem unlikely to stay that way. South Florida hasn’t been above .500 since Stan Heath’s last year in 2012, and the program doesn’t appear set up to succeed any time soon.
Schedules for 2017 2K Classic, Legends Classic announced
On Monday afternoon, the matchups for the 2K Classic and Legends Classic were announced.
On Nov. 16, a doubleheader will take place at Madison Square Garden. Providence will take on Washington. The other matchup will feature Virginia Tech and Saint Louis. The Billikens, like the Huskies, under new head coach Mike Hopkins, are in the process of a rebuild. This will likely result in a matchup between the Friars, a fringe top-25 team looking for its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, squaring off against the Hokies, listed at No. 23 in NBC Sports’ early preseason rankings.
The Legends Classic held days later at the Barclays Center will feature a doubleheader of Penn State and Pitt and an old Big 12 showdown between Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lions and Panthers met last season on a neutral floor, with Pitt picking up an 81-73 victory. The Aggies have not faced the Cowboys since moving to the SEC in 2012.
Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas
Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.
First-Team All-Big 12:
Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.
The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.
And if they lose?: West Virginia
The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.
Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.
Sleeper: Oklahoma State
The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.
The Bubble Dwellers: One
Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.
Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.