Blogger Spotlight: Inside Kansas-Missouri with Upon Further Review


This weekend’s not just about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. Well, at least not in the Kansas City area.

No. 2 Kansas travels to Columbia, Mo., Saturday for their annual second showdown with longtime rival Missouri. And there’s reason for Jayhawks fans to be concerned despite the Tigers’ recent woes in this rivalry.

Will Kansas lose focus after clinching a share of the Big 12 title on Wednesday? And how will it fare at a place where the Tigers are

For answers to those questions and more – like the greatness of statistics when measuring teams – I turned to Martin Manley for this week’s Blogger Spotlight. He writes about the Jayhawks, Tigers and Wildcats for Upon Further Review, a blog owned by the Kansas City Star.

Q: Kansas owns this rivalry lately. Is Bill Self’s system a bad matchup for Mike Anderson’s style, or are the Tigers on the verge of making this competitive again?   

A: I don’t think Self’s system or style of play is a variable in why KU is somewhat dominant. It mostly boils down to the fact that KU has superior players. Anderson’s style works extremely well against lesser quality teams because they can press them and create a lot of turnovers. That’s why they are usually at the top of the NCAA charts on opponents’ turnovers. But, good teams can manage that press.

Q: Do the fans care more about the rivalry than the players and coaches? That must drive Norm Stewart nuts.

A: I think the majority of fans care more than the coaches simply because part of the mindset of any coach is to try to avoid making one game more important than another. Every coach wants to keep his team mentally prepared at all times. Sure, they will give a little extra locker-room rah, rah when playing a major rival, but it’s really nothing compared to the intensity that fans have – especially in Kansas City – especially between Lawrence and Columbia, civil war and all.

Q: OK, aesthetics and sheer enjoyment : Which team’s more fun to watch?

A: In recent years, I have considered Mizzou to be more enjoyable to watch – just a lot more action. Self’s teams, on the other hand, are more disciplined and based upon setting up in the half court.

However, I have to say this particular season, KU is incredibly fun to watch – easily the most enjoyable of Self’s teams at Kansas. It’s not because they run a lot, but because the half court offense is the best I have ever seen in college – amazingly efficient. It reminds me of the 1980’s Celtics.

Q: You’re right about the offense. Kansas has so many offensive options – and underrated players on a national level such as Tyrel Reed – that this seems like the first year when the offense is overshadowing the always solid defense. (Though, I’d say the defense is far from its usual intimidating self.) Are you a believer that defense, not offense, wins titles? And will this year put that to the test?

A: I recently did a study on defense winning titles and there is no doubt that it does. Kansas always has a very good defense based upon points allowed per possession coupled with defensive FG%. Typically, it is their defense that wins most of the time. In 2011, it’s more their offense.

Q: Does Kansas give you some pause about their national title hopes then? Or is the offense that good?

A: You have to realize KU has been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 at some point in all but four seasons since 1991 and yet they have only won one title in that span. Of course, there are 340+ teams too.

The bottom line concern for Kansas fans is that they have had some very disappointing early exits from the tournament. Only the most optimistic would default to a national championship (2008) over an early exit (multiple). The superior offense gives reason for hope in 2011, but KU has had better defenses and still fallen way short. So, it’s pure guesswork.

Q: What’s with Missouri and its road woes? Should that be a warning sign for March Madness? 

A: Missouri’s style of play feeds off the fans. It’s 40 minutes of hell…ter skelter. The fans get involved and it helps MU and hurts their opponents. They don’t have that advantage on the road. Even so, the jury is out on neutral courts. They are 3-1 this year with their only loss being a last second collapse against Georgetown.

Q: A promising sign for the NCAA tournament then. Is Missouri’s ceiling going to depend on their seed, then? Or is this a team that’ll max out in the Sweet 16 regardless of seed?

A: I’m not a believer in seeds having much to do with any team’s ceilings. We talk a lot about who is seeded where and if they are too high or too low, but that always means one position at most. Suppose MU is a #8. Does it matter if they are a #9 instead… or a #7. I don’t think so. The advantage Mizzou has is that their style is unique and other teams don’t plan for it. That should help them no matter where they are seeded. On the other hand, their big disadvantage is that they don’t bang well and that can be important in the tournament.

Q: Kansas City loves its Chiefs. But when it comes to hoops would it be a Jayhawks backer or Tigers backer?  (And is K-State ever going to be on that level of fan interest?)

A: In Kansas City, there is a larger KU presence than MU, but not by a lot. K-State is third. I suppose the Cats could be on the Hawks or Tigers level of interest, but they would have to be very good at basketball to make it so. MU is the major school in the state, so people on the Missouri side are partial. Lawrence is very close to KC, so the Kansas side is heavily influenced by the Hawks.

Q: Upon Further Review isn’t afraid to whip out the stats. Do find you’ve cultivated an audience that expects this from you? Or do they still want some of the sports clichés?

A: As to Upon Further Review, all I can say is that I write about what interests me – and that means it’s going to be predicated upon statistical evidence the huge majority of the time. UFR is not about subjectivity and unsupported opinion. Just the opposite. Sports clichés, tweets, quotes, typical reporting are all unacceptable.

The only thing that matters to me, and the vast majority of UFR readers, is what can be quantified and what can be proven. Of course, even within those parameters, there is room for debate. If a person wants something else, there are 10,000 other places to go on the net, but there is only one UFR.

Q: Are there any college hoops misnomers or myths you find people cling to? And how long until advanced statistical analysis makes those myths go away?

A: I’ve dealt with a lot of “myths” on UFR over the years. There are still a lot of them that people cling to. One I’ve been dealing with recently is how even the media clings to the notion that whoever had the most points in a game “led the team to victory”. Almost nothing irritates me more than that.

I invented the Efficiency Rating (EFF) in 1985 – not to be confused with John Hollingers Efficiency Rating. The NBA adopted EFF a few years ago. It’s overwhelmingly more accurate in determining which player was the most valuable in a game than simple points scored. The media (mainstream) is too lazy to look beyond points, but someday, somewhere in another land far, far away… perhaps EFF will become commonplace. In baseball, stats like OPS are starting to become more widely known, so there is hope.

Q: How did you get into blogging and how does it fit into your “real” job?

A: I work for the Kansas City Star. I’m primarily responsible for statistical information in the paper. Newspapers are, as everyone knows, struggling. So, more and more emphasis has been put on – which is owned by The Star.

A few years back we began UFR as a place thinking people could congregate – a place removed from the “your team sucks” mentality that is so pervasive so many other places. Upon Further Review concentrates on the Kansas City area – primarily Chiefs, Royals, Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State.

However, there are quite a few stories on Big 12 football and basketball as well as NFL, MLB and NBA. I’m the primary contributor and do all the behind the scenes work, but we also have reader contributions that I post from time to time.

You can read more of Martin’s work by clicking here.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”