Blogger Spotlight: Inside Kansas-Missouri with Upon Further Review

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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 kansascity.com – 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.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.