Monthly Archives: March 2013

Five things about Michigan

 

TREY BURKE

This game is as closely matched as maybe any we’ve seen in the NCAA Tournament so far, and Kansas vs. Michigan in the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional semifinals (6:37 p.m., TBS) could be one for the ages. Usually you can get a feel among the media types at the tourney on which way the wind is blowing, but nobody has a clue on this one.

Here’s 5 things to look for from Michigan, with plenty of links – and my feature on Michigan guard Trey Burke that ran in today’s Eagle.

1. Guard play is key

Michigan has a great trio of guards in Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas — as good as any KU saw in the Big 12 this year, and there’s some who think Burke might be the best player in the country. The biggest question for KU is going to be who guards Burke, and the answer might be everybody at one time or another. All three average in double digits, and Hardaway Jr. and Stauskas are big enough to be effective taking the ball to the hole and banging for rebounds when they have to.

2. Beilein’s time? 

Michigan coach John Beilein might be the best coach in the country who has never been to a Final Four. This is Beilein’s 8th trip to the NCAA Tournament – he’s also been with Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998) and West Virginia (2005, 2006). He made the Elite Eight with West Virginia in 2005 before losing to Louisville in overtime.

3. McGary’s momentum

Power forward Mitch McGary wears the same number as another famous Wolverine who once played his position. The freshman, who was a teammate of Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, has moved into the starting lineup for both NCAA Tournament games and is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in NCAA play. No, I’m not comparing him to C-Webb. But he’s an up-and-comer – a future All-Big Ten pick in my opinion.

4. Depth

Is depth an issue for Michigan? They haven’t been getting much out of their bench so far in the NCAA Tournament – just 5 points in 55 minutes – but they’ve also cruised to two blowout wins.

5. History

Is history on Michigan’s side? The Wolverines haven’t been to the Final Four since the Fab Five made it in 1993* and lost to Duke in the NCAA championship game. It took a long time for Big Blue to get back to this point, and the rigors of a Big Ten Schedule seem to have them acutely prepared for a big game like this.

TA

 

A look at Self in the Sweet 16

By Rustin Dodd

ARLINGTON, Texas — Here we are, Cowboys Stadium, the NCAA regional site with a video board longer than the basketball court. The No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks will take the floor here against No. 4 seed Michigan at 6:37 p.m. Friday in the first Sweet 16 matchup (No. 3 Florida vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast will follow.), and KU coach Bill Self will make his 10 appearance in the Sweet 16.

It’s been a pretty good round for Self, who is 7-2 all-time in Sweet 16 matchups — a record that spans 13 seasons and three schools. Self is also 6-0 when his team is the better seed. By comparison, Self is just 2-5 in the Elite Eight. With Kansas preparing for Michigan, let’s take a look back at Self’s previous nine Sweet 16 matchups.

2000: No. 7 Tulsa 80, No. 6 Miami 71 (Austin, Texas)

In his first Sweet 16 appearance, Self’s Tulsa squad kept its unlikely run going with a turbo-charged victory over No. 6 seed Miami. The Golden Hurricane outscored Miami 49-46 in the second half.

2001: No. 1 Illinois 80, No. 4 Kansas 64 (San Antonio)

In Self’s first season in Champaign, his veteran Illini squad outmuscled a KU rotation that included sophomores Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.

2002: No. 1 Kansas 73, No. 4 Illinois 69 (Madison, Wis.)

One year later, Roy Williams and Kansas gained a measure of revenge, taking down Illinois on the way to the KU program’s first Final Four since 1993.

2004: No. 4 Kansas 100, No. 9 UAB (St. Louis)

After winning two games in Kansas City, KU faced an upstart (and frenetic) UAB squad that had taken down No. 1 seed Kentucky. The fast tempo suited Kansas just fine, and the Jayhawks advanced rolled to the Elite Eight in Self’s first season at KU. They would lose in overtime to No. 3 seed Georgia Tech.)

2007: No. 1 Kansas 61, No. 4 Southern Illinois 58 (San Jose, Calif.)

In an ugly, defensive-oriented showdown, Kansas sophomore Brandon Rush finished six of six while leading KU with 12 points. The run would end with a loss to UCLA in the regional final.

2008: No. 1 Kansas 72, No. 12 Villanova 57 (Detroit)

On their way to the NCAA championship, the Jayhawks made a stop in Detroit, pounding a Villanova squad that featured Scottie Reynolds and not much else.

2009: No. 2 Michigan State 67, No. 3 Kansas 62 (Indianapolis)

Self’s second loss in the Sweet 16. Kansas led the Spartans 36-29 at halftime, but Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas made more plays down the stretch as the Jayhawks ran out of gas.

2011: No. 1 Kansas 77, No. 12 Richmond 57 (San Antonio)

The shocker would come in the next round, when KU would fall to another school from Richmond, Va. But first, the top-seeded Jayhawks throttled another double-digit seed in the Sweet 16.

2012: No. 2 Kansas 60, No. 11 North Carolina State 57 (St. Louis)

On a run that defined winning ugly, junior center Jeff Withey had eight points and 10 blocks while KU survived a woeful shooting night (one for 14 from three) and advanced to play North Carolina in the Elite Eight.

 

Ben McLemore, Cowboys Stadium, links on links on links

 

I’m inside of Cowboys Stadium for a full day of press with the four teams here for the South Regional semifinals and finals – Michigan plays Kansas on Friday at 6:37 p.m. followed by Florida-Florida Gulf Coast, which I don’t expect to tip before 9:30. The winners play Sunday for a trip to the Final Four next week in Atlanta.

Here’s Twitter links for The Eagle’s duo in Dallas – KU beat writer Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) and myself (@t_adame) – as always, we’ll provide plenty of updates. Eagle photog Bo Rader is also with us, but he doesn’t have Twitter.

A couple of thoughts, links to get you through until the big games start tonight.

-With a heavyweight clash against Michigan coming up, the Jayhawks desperately need leading scorer Ben McLemore to shake off his shooting/scoring/everything slump that he’s been in and return to the form that made him an All-Big 12 pick and possible No. 1 selection in the NBA Draft. The one play everyone was talking about from last Sunday’s win over North Carolina in the Sprint Center was an alley-oop to McLemore to start the second half. It was a set play, and McLemore came wide open on the backside lob. He grabbed the ball what seemed like a foot above the rim and he did this thing where he tried to lay it up/lay it on the rim’s backstop. It was like he didn’t know what to do at that moment. Such a strange thing to see, but I think it underlines his struggles. Even when he’s in the right spot, he’s doing the wrong thing.

-There were over 108,000 people that watched the 2010 NBA All-Star game at Cowboys Stadium – a record – so the mere 42,000+ expected for tomorrow’s games must seem like a pittance to the stadium staff. They’ll up that number considerably for next year’s Final Four, when they’ll try to fit in over 80,000. The thing is, KU is getting pretty used to playing in these huge football stadiums – two games last year in the Final Four at the Superdome in New Orleans and one earlier this year.

Here’s our schedule for open practices today in Arlington

12-1250 Michigan, 1-150 FGCU aka Dunk City, 210-3 KU, 310-4 Florida.

I’ll check back in with Michigan stuff after the pressers.

TA  

 

 

KU, WSU not playing anytime soon

By Rustin Dodd

No. 1 seed Kansas was supposed to be in the Sweet 16; No. 9 seed Wichita State was not. But together, the two schools have pulled off something that hasn’t been accomplished since 1988: Two Kansas schools in the Sweet 16. (KU and K-State faced off in the Elite Eight in 1988.)

When KU coach Bill Self was asked about Wichita State’s surprise victory over No. 1 seed Gonzaga, he responded with some textbook wit — the kind that might also strike a tender nerve.

“I’m happy for the Shockers. I’m excited for them,” Self said, smiling. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to play them.

“That was a joke. Because I knew that would be the next question.”

So yes, even after Wichita State’s second Sweet 16 appearance in eight years, Self and the Jayhawks are holding true to their word. Don’t expect any KU-Wichita State showdowns in the near future.

 

Trust in Nate Silver

By Rustin Dodd

So, No. 1 seed Kansas picked up NCAA tourney victories over No. 16 seed Western Kentucky and No. 8 North Carolina this past weekend in Kansas City, advancing to play No. 4 Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

But did the Jayhawks actually improve their NCAA title odds? The answer is no, if you choose to believe Nate Silver, the statistical wunderkind who predicts presidential elections, writes best-selling books, and projects the NCAA Tournament on the side.

According to Silver’s latest projections, updated Monday on his FiveThirtyEight blog, Kansas now has a 4.5 percent chance to cut down the nets at the Final Four in Atlanta.

The number is down from Silver’s pre-tournament projection of 7.5 percent, which placed the Jayhawks as the fourth best bet behind Louisville, Indiana and Florida. After the opening rounds, KU is now behind tournament favorite Louisville (32.4 percent) and Florida (21.3 percent), the No. 3 seed in the Jayhawks’ South Region. And four other schools also have a better chance of winning it all, according to Silver. No. 1 seed Indiana (10.9 percent), No. 2 Ohio State (6.8 percent), No. 2 Duke (6.0 percent) and No. 4 Syracuse (4.8 percent).

So what’s going on here? Well, Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 has opened up better odds for No. 3 Florida. And Silver’s model, based on predictive computer formulas (but not R.P.I), likes both Michigan and Florida.

It’s not all bad.

According to Silver’s projections, Kansas is a slight favorite to beat Michigan, with a 54 percent chance to take down the Wolverines and reach the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks also have a 23.3 percent chance to reach the Final Four, and an 11.2 percent chance to reach the title game.

Yes, Silver has pegged the Jayhawks as a considerable long-shot. But remember: Silver’s model gave No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast a 3.3 percent chance to reach the Sweet 16. And the Eagles went all “Dunk City” on No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State to join Kansas, Florida and Michigan in the Arlington regional.

The odds of Dunk City crashing Atlanta and cutting down the nets?  0.019 percent.

Getting a look at Michigan

By Rustin Dodd

LAWRENCE — Back home on campus after a successful trip to Kansas City, the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks now have four days to prepare for their next challenge: No. 4 seed Michigan at 6:37 p.m. on Friday in palatial Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It’s a battle between programs that split the No. 1 ranking in the polls on Jan. 28. Michigan topped the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1992-93, the second season of the Fab Five, while the Jayhawks rose to No. 1 in the coaches poll before losing three straight.

The Jayhawks, of course, rallied to win the Big 12 regular-season crown and earned a No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, Michigan finished 7-6 while facing a brutal schedule in the Big Ten.

The Wolverines, one of the youngest and most talented teams in the country, appear to have found something in the NCAA Tournament, posting blowout victories over No. 13 South Dakota State and No. 5 seed VCU. Here’s a first look at Michigan, which is making its first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 1994.

THE BREAKDOWN: Michigan and Kansas offer polar opposite styles — at least, according to the advanced stats. The Wolverines, led by sophomore guard Trey Burke, are second in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.) Michigan scores 1.21 points per possession, trailing only No. 1 seed Indiana.)

The Wolverines shoot a respectable 37.5 percent from three-point range, but they also do a solid job of getting good shots, hitting 53.8 percent from two-point range.

Kansas, of course, has the nation’s best interior defender in Jeff Withey, and thus the nation’s best defense inside the three-point line. (The Jayhawks hold opponents to just 38.7 percent on two-point attempts, the best mark in the country by a substantial margin.)

So why did the Wolverines struggle down the stretch in the Big Ten? For one, they rank 41st in defensive efficiency, the fourth worst among teams still in the tournament. Florida Gulf Coast (97th), La Salle (86th) and Marquette (52nd) are the only teams with worse defensive numbers.

Can Michigan stop Kansas? After KU’s victory over No. 8 seed North Carolina on Sunday, the Jayhawks had dropped to 32nd in the country in offensive efficiency.

Which leads to an interesting point: The computer profiles of both teams offer tournament red flags. In the last 10 years, the national champion has ranked in the top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Of course, if Kansas or Michigan play well enough to advance to the Final Four and beyond, their efficiency numbers will likely climb.

THE HISTORY: Michigan leads the all-time series 5-2, but KU has won the last two: a 75-64 victory at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 19, 2009, and a 67-60 victory in Ann Arbor on Jan. 9, 2011. Kansas coach Bill Self is 8-0 against the Wolverines, including a 6-0 mark at Illinois.

BEST WIN: The Wolverines took down Ohio State 76-74 in overtime in Ann Arbor on Feb. 5. They had dropped the first matchup at Ohio State, a place where Kansas won back in December.

WORST LOSS: Michigan cratered in an 84-78 loss at Penn State on Feb. 27 — a loss that was nearly as bad as Kansas’ loss at TCU. The Wolverines allowed Penn State to shoot 27 of 57 from the floor and committed 15 turnovers.

BEST PLAYER: Sophomore guard Trey Burke is a National Player of the Year candidate after averaging 18.8 points and 6.7 assists and shooting 47.0 percent from the floor.

ONE MORE TO WATCH: Freshman Mitch McGary is a 6-foot-10 forward who played at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, the same prep school that produced former KU All-American Thomas Robinson and current KU guard Naadir Tharpe. Similar to KU freshman Perry Ellis, McGary has had a breakout March. He’s averaging just 6.8 points per game, but he finished with a career-high 21 and 14 rebounds while making 10 of 11 shots against VCU in Michigan’s 78-53 victory over VCU in the round of 32.

 

KU Gameday: UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, McLemore’s struggles, lots of links

We’re closing in on gametime for today’s NCAA Tournament South Regional contests between Kansas and North Carolina from the snow-covered Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and there’s plenty of big-time storylines happening here … including finding out who Wichita State’s opponent will be when Ole Miss and La Salle play after KU-UNC.

But that’s for later.

I wrote about North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo leading up to the game, and how he handles the massive amount of expectations heaped on his shoulders in Chapel Hill. The biggest knock on McAdoo seems to be his laid-back approach, but that’s his personality, and his teammates made a point of saying he wasn’t that way on the court. I think if you watch  him play, you can’t help but think he can be more aggressive but he’s young and he seems to just be getting better. His matchup with Kansas center Jeff Withey today will be key.

-There was a lot of talk after KU’s win over Western Kentucky on Friday about the inability of KU guard Ben McLemore to handle the ball in the open floor, and he seems to be struggling down the stretch. Here’s Rick Plumlee’s article on how the Jayhawks need more out of McLemore if they want to advance to the Sweet 16.

-Great read by Rustin Dodd on what happened a decade ago when Roy Williams decided to leave Kansas for North Carolina and the Jayhawks and Bill Self came together. Some of the details in there, including the one on Williams dipping his head after making eye contact with the KU interim AD on a flight back from LA – after he knew he’d already taken the UNC job – are just fantastic.

“I will remember this as vividly as yesterday,” he says. “I looked over at Coach Williams, and our eyes met, and he dropped his head. And I thought, ‘Oh my god, he’s leaving.

-Here’s a photo gallery from yesterday’s media sessions for KU and UNC.
-Here’s a notebook Rick and I put together, including stuff on Roy Williams’ “spells” he suffers through and a few more KU and UNC items.
TA

Surviving the Hilltoppers, Perry Ellis shines, all the KU links you need

Yesterday was a basketball marathon in Kansas City, one with a pair of huge upsets in the West Regional as No. 12 seed Ole Miss defeated No. 5 seed Wisconsin and No. 13 seed La Salle defeated No. 4 seed Kansas State.

And, of course, there was an almost-upset when No. 1 Kansas struggled with No. 16 Western Kentucky but still came out with a 64-57 victory and will face North Carolina on Sunday at 4:15 p.m. at the Sprint Center.

We had the Jayhawks covered from all angles – here’s links to what we wrote and shot yesterday:

-Kansas made sure it wouldn’t be the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16.

-Photo gallery from KU’s win over Western Kentucky with 95 pics … props to Eagle photogs Bo Rader and Travis Heying. 

-KU freshman forward and Wichita native Perry Ellis continues his string of KC masterpieces.

-Adjustments led the Tar Heels to Kansas City. 

-Notebook package from Kansas City – better than your Christmas stocking. 

And here’s Twitter links to our team in Kansas City – KU beat writer Rustin Dodd, Travis, Rick Plumlee and myself.

I’ll be back later today with some more stuff after we get to talk to UNC and KU.

TA

 

 

All the KU links you need

Kansas has been locked in on Western Kentucky since Selection Sunday and the Jayhawks get the late game Friday at the Sprint Center, which should be a pretty wild scene with Roy Williams and North Carolina taking on Villanova right before. Here’s links to all of the KU stuff from our NCAA Tournament preview edition that came out today.

-Perry Ellis finally finds his footing for KU. Watching Ellis’ turnaround in the Big 12 Tournament was nothing short of amazing – if you watched as many KU games as I did this year then you spent most of the season wondering where his head was at. No question about that now.

-Defense helped KU get past midseason slump. 

-The Kansas women’s team isn’t just happy with being in the tourney.  Still can’t believe they got a bid, but all that matters is you make it.

-Hilltoppers get healthy at the right time.

-Looking at the teams in KU’s pod. 

Here’s Twitter links to our Eagle crew covering KU in Kansas City this week – @rustindodd @rickplumlee @t_adame.

TA

A look at KSU-KU, Part III

By Rustin Dodd

On Saturday night at the Sprint Center, No. 1 seed Kansas will face No. 2 seed Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament championship game. It will be the second time in four seasons that the in-state rivals will meet for the conference tournament title — and this one may mean a little more.

They shared the regular crown, turning tonight’s title tilt into a de facto tie-breaker. Here are three things to watch at the Sprint Center.

1. KU’s bench production. Last season, Kansas advanced to the NCAA championship game with a bench that basically amounted to senior guard Conner Teahan and juco transfer forward Kevin Young. The Jayhawks’ reserves played just slightly more than 20 percent of the minutes in six NCAA Tournament games — and just 30.3 minutes per game from the Elite Eight on.

It didn’t matter much.

Depth can be a non-factor in March. Television timeouts are a little longer. Starters play major minutes. And for most of February, it looked as if Kansas would have to follow the same model this season. Sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe and freshman forward Perry Ellis — generally the first two players off KU’s bench — have been inconsistent this year. And freshmen Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III and Rio Adams all need more seasoning.

But in two victories in the Big 12 Tournament, the Jayhawks have tapped into some unforeseen production from the KU reserves. Freshman Perry Ellis had a career-high 23 points in Friday night’s semifinal victory over Iowa State, and the KU bench finished with 37 points. That would have been a season high — if not for the 39 bench points in Thursday’s blowout victory over Texas Tech.

For perspective: In KU’s final six games of the regular season, the bench had averaged just 14 points per game. The bench explosion against Texas Tech was a little misleading — Rio Adams went on a tear in the final minutes, and of course, it was Texas Tech. But if some combo of Ellis, Tharpe and Traylor can give KU productive minutes, it could widen the Jayhawks’ margin for error in March.

2. K-State’s three-point shooting. Kansas State took aim from deep in a 59-55 loss to Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 22. The Wildcats hit just nine of 30 from three-point range, and K-State coach Bruce Weber was questioned about the strategy after the game.

In the rematch in Lawrence, the Wildcats shifted gears, attempting just 19 three-pointers (they hit eight) and attacking the Jayhawks inside. That didn’t work, either. KU center Jeff Withey finished with five blocks (he had zero in the first game), and the Jayhawks limited K-State to just 12 of 31 shooting from two-point range. Will K-State revert to the three-point plan in the third matchup?

3. Can K-State keep KU off the boards? The Jayhawks dominated the offensive glass in the second game in Lawrence, outrebounding K-State 40-23. The Jayhawks nearly had as many offensive rebounds (14) as K-State had defensive (17), and KU turned those extra possessions into 19 second-chance points.

The rebounding advantage wasn’t as stark in Manhattan (KU outrebounded K-State 35-28), but K-State’s Jordan Henriquez and Thomas Gipson will have to find a way to keep the Jayhawks off the boards. If KU senior forward Kevin Young isn’t 100 percent — he suffered a lower-leg injury in Friday’s win over Iowa State — that may help K-State close the gap.