Kansas Jayhawks

Getty Images

No. 1 Kansas claims outright Big 12 title with win over Texas Tech

Leave a comment

LUBBOCK, Texas — No. 1 Kansas had the outright Big 12 title wrapped up before going back on the court after halftime. The Jayhawks then finished off something that hadn’t been done in the conference in a decade.

Devon Dotson scored 17 points while Udoka Azubuike had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks beat Texas Tech 66-62 on Saturday. They became the Big 12’s first champion with only one loss in league play since they were 15-1 in 2009-10, two seasons before the conference expanded to an 18-game round-robin schedule.

“Everyone in the locker room, that was our goal, to win it outright and don’t share anything,” Dotson said. “For us to go 17-1 is big. Hopefully we can build off of it. We’re not satisfied. We have bigger goals and aspirations, but we can build off of this for sure.”

Kansas (28-3, 17-1 Big 12) had already clinched at least a share of its 19th Big 12 title, the 15th in 16 seasons, with a win Wednesday night over TCU. The Jayhawks were outright champions by halftime Saturday, when second-place and No. 4 Baylor (26-4, 15-3) lost 76-64 at West Virginia.

“I just want to say it’s a good conference,” Azubuike said. “In the Big 12 there are all these teams that are competing all the time. A lot of people really don’t know how hard it is with defense and everything. It’s tough.”

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

Texas Tech (18-13, 9-9), last year’s national runner-up after sharing the Big 12 title with Kansas State, had a chance to tie the game with 2.8 seconds left. But Davide Moretti, who made a 3-pointer only seconds earlier, missed another one from long range. The Red Raiders guard fell to floor after contact with Marcus Garrett, but was no foul called.

“That’s the best Kansas team I’ve seen,” Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Dotson, the best guard in college basketball. Dok’s the best big in college basketball and Garrett is the best defender in college basketball, and their role players just don’t make mistakes.”

Ochai Agbaji added 12 points for the Jayhawks. Garrett had nine points and eight rebounds, including a driving layup in the final half-minute of the game.

Moretti had 18 points, while TJ Holyfield had 11 points for Texas Tech, which lost its fourth game in a row when trying to get back into the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought the guys played really hard,” Beard said. “We didn’t have any lapses of effort. … We have seven turnovers, 40-minute game against Kansas. That’s good. I thought the guys competed. They were dialed in. We didn’t get too high or too low. We were right there. We gave ourselves a chance.”

Azubuike put Kansas ahead to stay with his put-back dunk with 1:41 left that made it 59-57.

Holyfield’s 3-pointer tied the game with 2:11 left and came during a stretch of just more than two minutes when he and Azubuike were trading points. Both had a free throw, then both had layups before Holyfield’s 3 and Azubuike’s go-ahead putback.

HE SAID IT

“It’s just been a long grind and it’s been pretty well-documented kinda the not the ups and downs of our season because our season has been primarily all ups, but guys dealing with a lot of stuff. Coaches dealing with some stuff,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Keep focused. Stay disciplined. Stay responsible and to learn to grind. … Guys deserve all the credit.”

STREAKY SLUMPS

Kansas had a 32-24 lead after a 12-2 run over the final seven minutes of the first half, despite missing nine shots in a row. Tech missed nine of its last 10 shots. The Jayhawks then missed seven shots in a row early in the second half, allowing Texas Tech to tie the game at 37-all on Holyfield’s 3 with 14 minutes left.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks had never won 17 conference games in the same season. They had won 16 games three times (2002, 2012, 2017). Kansas finished 9-0 in Big 12 road games. They are a certain No. 1 seed, likely the top overall seed, in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the Big 12 Tournament.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, who won a school-record 31 games last season, lost to unranked teams Oklahoma and Texas last week before falling in overtime at No. 4 Baylor and then at home to Kansas. Jahmi’us Ramsey has been their leading scorer as a freshman, though he had only six points in the regular-season finale. Tech has struggled to have an inside presence this season.

UP NEXT

The Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders both got first-round byes and will play Thursday against opponents to be determined.

Kansas responds to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
2 Comments

Kansas responded forcefully Thursday in refuted allegations made in the Notice of Allegations it was sent by the NCAA in the wake of the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball that has ensnared the Jayhawks and Hall of Fame coach Bill Self.

“In this case, stemming from federal criminal trials in 2018, there are several facts that are in dispute; there are assumptions made; and, perhaps most importantly, there are unprecedented and novel theories put forward that, if found to have merit by the Panel, would dramatically alter the collegiate sports landscape in ways not contemplated by the Membership,” the university says in its response. “This infractions’ proceeding would redefine the criminal verdicts in the federal trials if the Panel adopts the enforcement staff’s theories. In its Response, the University formally challenges each of the men’s basketball related allegations in the Amended Notice of Allegations (“ANOA”) as neither NCAA legislation nor the facts support the enforcement staff’s allegations.”

Kansas fully disputed the assertion that adidas or its representatives could be considered boosters.

“The enforcement staff relies on a never before alleged theory. Specifically, the enforcement staff alleges that: (1) a corporate sponsor of an institution’s athletics program is a representative of the institution’s athletics interests because, by the very nature of the relationship, sponsors make financial contributions that promote athletics,” the university argues, “and (2) every employee, consultant, or other person associated with the corporate sponsor is a representative of the institution if the institution knew or should have known the individual was associated with the corporate sponsor.

“Stated otherwise, according to the enforcement staff, every corporate sponsor and most, if not all, individuals associated with the sponsor are boosters of every institution with which the sponsor does business. This theory, if adopted by the Panel, would have far reaching ramifications throughout the Membership given the universal use of corporate sponsorships throughout Division I athletics.”

The university also defended Self, who won 15 Big 12 titles and one national title at the school since joining in 2003.

“Head Coach Bill Self had no knowledge of any NCAA rules violations or illicit conduct exhibited by Adidas, its employees or its consultants,” the school said. “In addition, as the University noted in September 2019, voluminous evidence demonstrates uncontestably that Coach Self did, in fact, promote an atmosphere of compliance and fully monitor his staff. The charges leveled against Coach Self are not based on fact.”

The school also denies that there was a failure to monitor and that Larry Brown, who last coached at Kansas in the 1980s, could be considered a representative of the university or athletic department.

The school’s entire response runs over 300 pages, and it’s further evidence that Kansas looks to be very much ready to push back against the NCAA and fight the allegations against one of the country’s flagship programs. The NCAA, in the notice of allegations, appears equally as ready for a fight.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: The Big East is up for grabs, Florida State survives and Kansas reclaims the Big 12

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Quite a few developments Wednesday from some of the country’s best teams in the nation’s best leagues. Here’s what you need to know:

Villanova makes this weekend interesting in the Big East

Seton Hall had a chance to do something really cool Wednesday. The Pirates, already having secured a piece of the Big East regular-season championship, could lock up an outright title at home, on a senior night honoring the likes of Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill and the incomparable Myles Powell.

That is a stage set beautifully.

Except the Pirates were sharing it with Big East powerhouse Villanova.

The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3-point range while holding Powell to 5 of 18 shooting to claim a 79-77 win in Newark and to send the Big East into some serious drama this weekend.

Seton Hall, now 13-4 in the league, still controls its own fate and can win the title outright, but the Pirates’ loss Wednesday means they’re not the only team who holds its fate in its own hands. That’s because the Pirates face Creighton on Saturday in Omaha, and the Bluejays are owners of a 12-5 mark in Big East play. If Greg McDermott’s team wins, they’re co-champs with Kevin Willard’s group.

But, that’s not all!

By virtue of knocking of Seton Hall, Villanova, too, sports a 12-5 conference mark. If the Wildcats can beat Georgetown for the second time this season on Saturday in D.C. and the Bluejays beat Seton Hall at home, it’s a three-way tie atop the Big East.

The ‘Cats tipoff a couple hours before Seton Hall and Creighton, so they’ll have the opportunity to watch their Big East title chances materialize on TV should they beat the Hoyas.

There’s intrigue in the Big East because Saddiq Bey scored 20 points while Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels both added 19 for the Wildcats, who shot 10 of 18 from the free-throw line to keep Seton Hall hanging around for the final seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvli had 20 and 10 for Seton Hall while McKnight scored 16.

All three teams are jockeying for seed lines both in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, so how things shake out not only effect the regular-season banners that might go up in Philly, Omaha and Newark, but the likelihood if they’re joined by something a little sweeter from the postseason.

Florida State steals a win in South Bend

Raiquan Gray hit a jumper 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game to put Florida State up one in the early going against Notre Dame. On the next possession, which took a total of 16 seconds, the Fighting Irish got a triple from Prentiss Hubb to regain the lead. A lead they would hold nearly until the very end.

The nearly is doing a lot of work in that sentence, though.

From the time of Hubb’s 3-pointer to when Florida State’s Trent Forrest’s layup went through the rim with 3 seconds remaining, Notre Dame had No. 7 Florida State on the ropes, but Forrest’s bucket and the three-seconds worth of advantage it gave the Seminoles was enough for Florida State to beat Notre Dame, 73-71.

The ‘Noles led for just 19 seconds in the game and trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. They really didn’t have a whole lot of business being in this thing late, but there they were until their they went, back home with their 25th win of the year. It also keeps Florida State tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings with just a home game against Boston College this weekend between them and a conference title.

As for Notre Dame, it was a missed opportunity to land a big win in a season that appears destined to end without an NCAA tournament for the third-straight time, which will match the longest drought of the Mike Brey era. They went without a dance from 2004-06 previously.

King Kansas…again

After 12 long months, at long last, the tyrannical reign of Texas Tech and Kansas State as Big 12 champions is over. Kansas injects some much-needed fresh air into the Big 12 as its new champion.

It was a long year for the Jayhawks, who spent the previous 14 as the conference’s best. Must of been tough, I’m sure.

The top-ranked Jayhawks dispatched TCU 75-66 to win at least a piece of the conference title for the 15th time in 16 years, and they can win it outright if they can beat Texas Tech in Lubbock or if Baylor gets tripped up by West Virginia in Morgantown.

Kansas has now won 15 straight and looks to only be rolling into tip-top fighting shape with Udoka Azubuike scoring 31 against the Horned Frogs. Not only is Kansas back after a one-year hiatus atop the Big 12, it looks as though the Jayhawks are quickly becoming the national title favorite.

No. 3 Kansas outlasts No. 14 West Virginia

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The distance between No. 3 Kansas and No. 14 West Virginia isn’t much. Both have dominant defenses. Both are generally considered to be one of the 10 or 15 best teams in the country.

The space that does exist between them, though, is meaningful. It’s that space that separates what looks to be a legitimate national title contender from a very good team.

The Jayhawks flexed their defensive muscle while the Mountaineers’ offensive deficiencies were on display Wednesday as Kansas won their showdown in Morgantown, 58-49. Kansas remains just a game behind first-place Baylor in the Big 12 with two home games against the Big 12’s soft middle ahead before their clash with the No. 1 Bears in Waco on Feb. 22.

The final 6 minutes of the game was a perfect exhibit of how impactful the difference between quite good and great is.

Kansas’ defense was phenomenal. West Virginia made one of its last 12 shots from the field, including missing its last nine. The Mountaineers turned it over six times. The Jayhawks were down three on the road to a top-15 opponent, a Bob Huggins team, and closed on a 13-1 run.

The Jayhawks’ offense is good – it’s hard not to be when you’ve got Udoka Azubuike in the middle shooting 74 percent from the field and Devon Dotson, an All-American candidate, running the point – but it has its issues, namely 3-point shooting. They’re shooting shooting just 33.7 percent from distance with Isaiah Moss and Christian Braun the only two players connecting at least at a 35 percent clip. Still, they’re top-15 in offense on KenPom, and when you’ve got the top-rated defense, you can deal with just OK shooting.

On the other side of Wednesday’s ledger was West Virginia’s offense. Surely, it was made worse by the Jayhawks’ defense, but it was clear it’s going to be very hard to count on the Mountaineers getting enough buckets against good teams to bet on them going deep in March. Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver are major problems for opponents inside, but it’s real work to create the type of post touches those two need consistently to turn possessions into buckets.

Huggins doesn’t have much in the way of playmaking on his roster. He couldn’t turn to anyone as the shots were clanking again and again down the stretch against Kansas and just tell them to go get a bucket. Everything has to be manufactured, not organically created. Add in the Mountaineers’ guards’ proclivity for turning it over, and it’s just not an offense you can trust.

West Virginia’s defense is excellent, but it doesn’t generate offense quite like those Press Virginia teams of year’s past. Maybe the Mountaineers’ elite offensive rebounding can buoy the offense, but there are limits to how good an offense can be that relies on missed shots to score points.

As has been discussed time and again this season, the NCAA tournament looks to be wide open, with the overall talent in the country down and none of the super teams we’ve seen recently. West Virginia absolutely has a chance to play itself to Atlanta and the Final Four. Wednesday showed, though, why their odds might not be much different than a dozen or so other teams while the Jayhawks will be where the smart money goes.

Kansas, Kansas State both taking blame for massive fight

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Sunflower Showdown took a wild turn on Tuesday night. And there’s not a clear indication of what’ll happen next.

No. 3 Kansas and Kansas State ended their bitter showdown with a wild melee in the disabled seating behind the Wildcats’ basket that included punches, shoving and at least one player threatening to swing a stool.

The Jayhawks were dribbling out the time on their 81-60 victory when Silvio De Sousa was stripped by DaJuan Gordon near mid-court. Gordon tried to go for a layup and De Sousa recovered to block his shot and send the freshman sprawling, then stood over Gordon and barked at him — triggering both benches to empty into what amounted to a rugby scrum.

At one point, De Sousa picked up a stool and held it over his head before Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard grabbed it from him from behind. The Jayhawks’ Marcus Garrett and David McCormick were also in the thick of the scrum along with the Wildcats’ James Love and David Sloan, who was the first player to come to Gordon’s defense.

It took both coaching staffs, the officials and Allen Fieldhouse security to separate the teams.

“Without knowing exactly everything that went down, it was obvious to me that we played a role in what transpired and there will be penalties for that,” said Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who was already shaking hands with Kansas State counterpart Bruce Weber when the chaos erupted. “I need to see the film to comment or have any definitive thoughts on exactly why or how it got started, because to be honest with you I don’t have any idea about that.”

This fight became a national event

The fight came three days after St. Francis and Sacred Heart were involved in a wild fracas following their game in Pennsylvania. But while that incident in the Northeast Conference went largely unnoticed, the pedigree of Kansas and the fact that both schools play in the Big 12 instantly turned their brawl into a national event.

Obviously it’s an embarrassment,” Self said. “It’s not something to be proud of. What happened showed zero signs of toughness. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness more so than toughness. If I was a fan watching, depending on your perspective, there would be nothing about that intriguing me to watch more.”

Then, adding to the bizarre finish, five players from each team were summoned back from the locker rooms by officials and one-tenth of a second was put on the clock. Kansas State shot technical free throws to booing from a few thousand fans, and the one make necessitated a change to the final box score.

The reason only those players returned? The rest of the players from each team — including those dressed in street clothes — were ejected because they had left the bench while the game was in progress.

“It should have been avoided,” Weber said. “It’s my guys, it’s my fault. They came here wanting to have a game, compete, and we didn’t compete the way we needed to, and probably a little frustration, especially the young guys.”

Weber had instructed his players to back off in the closing seconds and let the game run out. And while Self said he didn’t agree with the steal and layup attempt, he did acknowledge that Kansas State was merely playing to the final whistle.

“Silvio knew he was being defended,” Self said. “He took his ball, and certainly the way Silvio reacted to getting his ball taken, going and blocking his shot, that’s fair game. What transpired after that is what set everything off.”

What punishments are coming?

While he won’t be alone, De Sousa is likely to receive the stiffest punishment from the incident — the latest chapter in a career that has brought far more embarrassment and frustration to Kansas than pride and success.

It was De Sousa whose name surfaced in the FBI probe into college basketball in October 2018, and that in part led to an NCAA investigation of Kansas. The school received a notice of allegations last September that outlined major violations in men’s basketball, levied a head coach responsibility charge against Self and alleged a lack of institutional control. Those violations are being appealed and a decision is not expected until well after the season.

De Sousa was suspended last season for his role in the case, and he was supposed to sit out this season as well. But the school successfully appealed the decision, allowing the junior forward to return to the court.

Asked what his message was in the locker room after the game, Self replied: “There was no discussion on what happened from their vantage point. We talked to them and relayed to them how selfish it was. We relayed how disappointed we are. We should be in here talking about Christian Braun and selfishness created a situation where that’s not going to be the story line whatsoever. There was no communication back and forth. It was one way.”

Indeed, Braun was the story of the game until the final seconds after hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 20 points in his first Sunflower Showdown. The freshman guard grew up in nearby Burlington, Kansas.

Devon Dotson added 18 points and Udoka Azubuike finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds for Kansas (15-3, 5-1 Big 12), which beat the Wildcats for the 14th straight time at Allen Fieldhouse. Xavier Sneed had 16 points and David Sloan had 14 for the Wildcats (8-10, 1-5), who played a part in ending the Jayhawks’ conference title run last season.

“Credit to them. They kicked our butt,” said Weber, whose chin was reddened by what he called a stress-induced reaction. “I’m just happy nothing major happened to either team where there was an escalated fight. It was a bad play at the end. It’s disappointing. Life lessons for our young guys and hopefully next time they’ll be a little smarter.”

Kansas and Kansas State end rivalry game with fight

Getty Images
10 Comments

Kansas and Kansas State erupted into a fight on Tuesday night.

The Jayhawks were closing out an 81-60 Big 12 home win over their in-state rivals. Things got heated when the buzzer sounded.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa threw a punch and picked up a chair during the chaos. It’s difficult to pinpoint specific things from there. Police, security and team personnel stepped in to clear up the melee.

It’s one of the uglier incidents in recent memory for the heated Kansas state rivalry.

We’re definitely going to see suspensions out of this Kansas and Kansas State fight. It will depend on what the Big 12 is able to see during its investigation. The conference will try to track down as much evidence as possible to see how this started and who instigated things further.

After the game, both coaches talked about the brawl and how things played out in their eyes.

Kansas and Kansas State have some recent history during this rivalry. Bill Self and Kansas forward Jamari Traylor had a difficult time with a court storm after Kansas State won on its home floor five years ago. But that was more of a student-related incident instead of the two teams starting a fight.

No. 3 Kansas improves to 15-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12 with the win. Christian Braun paced the Jayhawks with 20 points. Devon Dotson added 18 points while Udoka Azubuike had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

A clearly-frustrated Kansas State dropped to 8-10 and 1-5 in the Big 12 as the rebuilding season continues.

These two teams will meet again in the Octagon of Doom on Feb. 29. The fight in the first matchup will be something to monitor as Kansas could still be fighting for a Big 12 title or No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

It’s been a wild night in college basketball. Illinois’ Alan Griffin stepped on Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic and was ejected. This is yet another bad incident that doesn’t involve basketball.