A limited amount of tickets remain for Michigan State's NCAA Tournament game Friday against Kansas at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Tickets are $140 for three Midwest Regional tournament games and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com. Detroit News
As of Tuesday afternoon, 25,000 of the 39,000 available tickets in Lucas Oil Stadium had been sold. MSU sold out its full allotment of 1,250, but fans can buy tickets at ticketmaster.com.
There are four different price ranges, and tickets are for all three games - two Friday and one Sunday. The way the seating is configured, all tickets are lower-level tickets. Lansing State Journal
The Jayhawks will depart Allen Fieldhouse at 1:30 p.m., fly out of Topeka’s Forbes Field at 2:30 p.m., and arrive at the Downtown Indianapolis Omni Severin Hotel at 5:30 p.m. KU will hold a shootaround from 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
...Self remembers KU’s 13-point loss to Michigan State well.
“I told our guys in the locker room, ‘We got ‘big-boyed’ tonight.’ They beat us by 11 on the boards. We didn’t handle the situation well.”
...Cole Aldrich needs eight blocks to pass Greg Ostertag as KU’s single-season block leader.
“I’m just going to go out and play the same game I played all year, try to block shots, rebound, get opportunities to score,” said Aldrich, who has 90 blocks. LJW
Give me an X-factor player, a player who can win this tournament by himself.
(Sherron) Collins can do damage for Kansas. He's that kind of player. So is Duke's Jon Scheyer if he plays the way he did against Florida State in the ACC championship. DeJuan Blair from Pitt is a big-time player. Jonny Flynn from Syracuse. And, of course, Blake Griffin from Oklahoma. He is physically imposing and can dominate a game at both ends. Q&A with Bill Raftery
Sherron Collins has juked opponents with a trademark crossover dribble since his days at Crane High in Chicago.
Yet to become a playmaker for the Kansas men's basketball team, Collins began stockpiling an arsenal of moves. He has devastated defenses going into his team's NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinal Friday against second-seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis.
Collins averaged 28.5 points and 5.0 assists in the first two rounds for the third-seeded Jayhawks.
"I don't even think about what I'm doing," Collins says. "If I see a defender let up ... or I create space, I'm going to shoot it."
...At 5-11, Collins has to be creative.
"He's a little guy," teammate Tyshawn Taylor says. "And he's kind of husky. When I first started playing with him, I didn't think he was that quick."
Taylor, a freshman, soon found out few guards can move as quickly with the ball as Collins.
A good game for Collins means he's looking for the open man when defenses collapse on him.
"When the ball is in his hands, he can make plays for others just as easy as he can make plays for himself," Kansas coach Bill Self says. "And I do think he can put great pressure on the defense, because he's good with the ball in his hands."
A sampling of Collins' smooth moves:
Mid-range game Collins says he didn't have a jump shot when he got to Kansas: "When I got here, I worked on it every summer. That's the thing that put my game together."
Soft touch Just when it seems Collins is moving full steam ahead, he will surprise defenses by releasing a soft floater. "He has to have that shot because of his size when he gets in there amongst big people," assistant coach Kurtis Townsend says.
Driving home Collins' bulky frame can be a hindrance if he doesn't watch his weight. When he's at his ideal 200 pounds (he's about 204 now, Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend says), he uses his size to get physical in the lane. "He can put his body on you and use his strength to create space to get a decent shot off," Townsend says.
Passing fancy Collins has learned to trust younger teammates.
"He has to help those other guys like Brady (Morningstar) and Tyrel (Reed) get shots," assistant coach Kurtis Townsend says. "It's his job to get open shots for them."
On the flip side, if 6-11 center Cole Aldrich gets hot, the game opens up for Collins.
"Sherron is starting to understand that the better the other guys play, the easier the game is going to come to him," Townsend says. USA Today
Collins' mother, Stacy Harris, and his father, now out of prison, were both in the stands at the Metrodome when he helped the Jayhawks beat North Dakota State and Dayton in the regional. He has reestablished a connection with Steven because, as Collins put it "I can't fault (him)....In a sense he was doing the wrong thing, but I know he did it to survive and to try to help us. I forgave him."
Kansas was the right choice for Collins. He liked the program's prestige. And he liked that it was away. But one last episode of misery followed him to Lawrence. Sherron Jr. was born shortly after he left for college. Collins returned when the baby was born, he said several weeks premature. Sherron Jr. lived 10 days.
According to a relative's account given to the Kansas City Star, Collins watched doctors disconnect the boy from life-support equipment and wept as he held him for his final 30 minutes. Collins said Sunday, "It was the biggest tragedy of my life."
He has fathered another son. Sherr'mari Collins is 1 and has become the most important part of his father's life. Collins said his birth has focused him on trying to be a great player and person as never before.
"The thing that happened to my son and then me having another son, it was the key to me being a better person and as good as I can be," Collins explained. "When I had (Sherr'mari), Coach talked about this all not being for me anymore. Everything I do should be for my son.
This wouldn't be a believable tale if it didn't involve one of college basketball's traditional powers in its year as reigning NCAA champion.
Kansas, which lost all five starters and seven of its top eight players from the team that won last year's NCAA Tournament, is back in the Sweet Sixteen for a third consecutive season.
...At the start of the season, no one predicted KU would still be playing the last weekend in March. Kansas was picked to finish third in the Big 12 Conference, and that seemed optimistic after what amounted to a home loss to Massachusetts in Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 13. UMass was 2-6 at the time.
But junior guard Sherron Collins called a players-only meeting after that 61-60 shocker and ordered the freshmen and the other newcomers to grow up quickly.
...Collins played a large role in the come-from-behind victory over Memphis in last year's championship game. He had a steal and a 3-pointer, then made the assist on Chalmers' tying 3-pointer that erased a nine-point deficit.
Collins scored 25 points when Kansas lost at Michigan State 75-62 on Jan. 10, but he also was sloppy with the ball, making eight turnovers. He knows that can't happen again.
"Last year, I could play 10 minutes and play terrible and we could win by 30," Collins told the Kansas City Star.
Marcus Morris, a 6-8 freshman, has said Collins has "the heart of a lion."
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self summoned three Jayhawks to his office on Monday afternoon.
His message to Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris during one-on-one chit-chats?
That they ought to be loose, carefree and primed to produce top-quality minutes in Friday’s Sweet 16 battle against Michigan State (approximately 8:37 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis).
“I told them, ‘No one can take away the fact we won the league. Nobody can take away the fact we are in the Sweet 16,’’’ Self said, adding, “‘If they can’t take that away from you, there’s no reason to try to hold onto it. All you can do is add to it. You’ve got to let it go.’
“We need the twins and Tyshawn to be aggressive at all times.”
...“I’m not asking them to do that much. I’m asking them to be aggressive and guard, make sure we get a shot every possession,” Self said. “When you worry about the intangibles, scoring happens.
“I asked Tyshawn, ‘Were you worried about scoring against Oklahoma when you had 26 (points)?’ He said, ‘No I was worried about guarding so-and-so.’ I said, ‘Exactly right. If you focus on the right things, scoring happens naturally.’’’ LJW
On April 7, the paths of Taylor and Kansas began to converge. The Jayhawks, behind a lineup stocked with future NBA draft picks, defeated Memphis in overtime to claim the national title. Later that night, Marquette named former assistant Buzz Williams its next head coach.
Williams flew to New Jersey four days later to meet with Taylor, but his efforts to ease the recruit’s apprehensions were futile.
“The kid is recruited by a slick, suave guy that he sees on television all the time,” Hurley said. “He wins him over, over other slick guys and then he leaves and the kid is left with the uncertainty of what’s the next thing that’s going to happen.”
While Taylor waited for Marquette to grant his release, Hurley and Kansas assistant Joe Dooley kept in regular contact. Dooley is “a friend of mine, a Jersey kid,” Hurley said, and the two spoke about the suddenly gaping holes in the Jayhawks’ roster. Guards Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush had declared for the NBA draft.
The team needed someone who could handle the responsibility of immediately contributing in a program fresh off a national championship. Fortunately for Kansas, Taylor knew all about responsibility.
As he hopped off the concession stand Tuesday afternoon, Taylor said he was content to be one of Self’s guys.
“I’m happy things went the way they did,” Taylor said. “It was a tough time going through it, but at the end of the day, I’m happy and I wouldn’t trade being here for the world.” Washington Post via LJW
Tyshawn Taylor knows pressure. After all, he was a key player one year ago as St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) posted a perfect 32-0 record and was the consensus national high school basketball champion.
“Last year felt good because we hadn’t won the state in three years,” Taylor told MaxPreps. “We had a bunch of guys who could score 30 anytime, but we knew we had to sacrifice for the team. When the tourney came, we knew we couldn’t lose. Our hard work paid off and we deserved it.”
The 6-foot-3 guard is one of six 2008 St. Anthony graduates who earned Division I scholarships and this year have faced higher levels of pressure. With March Madness upon us, however, Taylor is the only one competing in the NCAA tournament.
...“It feels good,” Taylor said of his starting position in a big-time program. “It shows that I came from a high school where I was able to play at this level.”
His biggest adjustments? “How much you work out and not many breaks. The pace is a lot faster.”
Asked about March Madness, Taylor replied, “I’m excited. I’ve been watching it since I had a TV. In high school, we had a lot of pressure, but not like March Madness. The pressure is a lot different. You lose and the season is over.”
The standout rookie already has played in two NCAA tourney victories as the Jayhawks earned a regional berth this week against Michigan State. He had 10 points and three assists during an 84-74 victory over North Dakota State and scored three points in a 60-43 win against Dayton.
“It feels good and I feel like I’m a big part of it,” he said prior to the Sweet 16. “This is a lot different than high school. It’s the urgency of March Madness. It’s a little more exciting. In March Madness you never know ? one bad game and you’re done. People come more turned up. Nobody wants to go home.” MaxPreps: St. Anthony Six experiencing varying levels of March Madness
Tyrone Appleton will be in his home state, Indiana, for the second time in the past six days, when Kansas arrives Wednesday in Indianapolis.
But the circumstances of the two visits couldn’t be much different. The Jayhawks will arrive in Indianapolis, just more than two hours away from Appleton’s hometown, Gary, to begin preparing for their Sweet Sixteen game against Michigan State on Friday.
“It’s a blessing,” Appleton, a junior guard, said.
And the reasons go far beyond basketball. Last Friday, after Kansas’ 84-74 victory against North Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Appleton flew home to Gary to attend a funeral.
...But something weird happened at Williams’ funeral the day before Kansas’ second-round game against Dayton. People kept coming up to Appleton. They wanted to talk about the Jayhawks.
They told Appleton to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Get to Indianapolis. That way, they could all go watch him perform on one of college basketball’s grandest stages. It would help the healing process.
Well, Kansas beat Dayton 60-43. Now, Appleton needs a few extra tickets.
“We’re going back to my home,” Appleton said. “It’s going to be real exciting.”
The most exciting part? Appleton even has a chance to contribute for the Jayhawks. In their first-round victory against North Dakota State, Appleton tied a season-high by playing six minutes.
These weren’t meaningless minutes, either. Self watched as North Dakota State guard Ben Woodside dominated the first three Jayhawks to defend him in the first half.
“Let’s put some guys in there who give us the best chance to get some stops,” Self said he thought to himself.
Self looked down to the end of the bench and called on Appleton in the middle of the first half. Appleton thought he heard Self wrong. But when Self repeated himself, Appleton ripped off his warm-up suit and sprinted to the scorer’s table.
Although no one stopped Woodside that day ? he scored 37 points, third most against Kansas in NCAA tournament history ? Appleton did arguably the best job containing him. Self praised Appleton’s defensive effort after the game.
“That’s what he does,” Self said. “If he just focuses in on that then he can be really effective.” UDK
Few things make a sports columnist feel cheesier than writing nice words about the local coach, especially one as celebrated as Bill Self. So when it’s unavoidable to do so, the easy route involves stepping out of the way to let the numbers do the talking.
Fasten your seat belt and digest this astonishing figure: When given an opportunity to avenge a loss from earlier in the season, Self has a 7-1 record in six years at Kansas.
...Sure, some of his 7-1 record has to do with losing to a school on its homecourt and then getting to play either in Allen Fieldhouse or at a neutral site. But that’s not always the case. Self’s team lost to Kansas State, 59-55, Jan. 14, 2006, in Lawrence. Kansas won the rematch March 4 in Manhattan, 66-52.
There’s more to Self’s success in rematches than the three most important factors in pitching and in real estate: location, location, location.
What the 7-1 record says about Self is that he’s a terrific counter-puncher. He knows how to tweak tactically and how to challenge players to do better the second time than they did the first time.
...Anyway, the fact Michigan State dominated Kansas in January shouldn’t render Self’s 7-1 revenge record meaningless. On Feb. 25, 2006, in Austin, Kansas lost to Texas, 80-55. Not quite three weeks later, Self’s team avenged the loss with a 12-point victory.
KU ready to beat Michigan State? I think so. LJW Keegan
Kansas appears to be a better team than the one that lost to Michigan State by 13 points at the Breslin Center on Jan. 10. But the Spartans believe they are much improved, too.
Delvon Roe is more explosive with healthier knees and Goran Suton no longer has food poisoning from a mixture of bad sushi and calamari. Both Durrell Summers and Chris Allen have regained some shooting touch and Travis Walton emerged Sunday against Southern California as another outside threat.
"It's even," Roe said of Friday's matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. "We're two completely different teams."
The Spartans have since won an outright Big Ten championship with a four-game lead and earned their eighth Sweet 16 appearance in the past 12 years.
But the Jayhawks' accomplishments this season are equally impressive as the defending national champions are without one returning starter from that banner year.
Bill Self's team has won 16 of its past 19 games, including eight straight after the MSU loss.
"They are way better," Walton said. "They are playing a lot more aggressive and you're seeing some scoring averages go up."
...Halfway home, just two wins away from a Final Four appearance in Detroit, the Spartans have tried to limit talk of a potential trip to the Motor City because of this challenge in front of them.
Victorious in five of his last six Sweet 16 games, Izzo can't help but get excited about the position this program is in. But a 25-year coaching veteran and his staff can only do so much.
It's ultimately up to the players to control MSU's fate.
"All the rocks have been turned over, all the stones have been flipped, we (as a staff) know what's going on," Izzo said. "(Strategy and coaching) is the only thing I can give to them, the rest they have to give to me." Detroit News
The Michigan State March formula involves late nights, game film, info sessions, caffeine and a large group of people working toward a goal of basketball enlightenment.
Coaches, video people, student managers and players scurry around hotels, preparing for the next opponent.
The way Travis Walton sees it, the only thing missing is the reindeer.
"You see all those Christmas shows with the elves in the work shop running around," Walton said. "The managers are the elves and Coach (Tom Izzo) is Santa. It's a toy shop up there."
The shop is back in East Lansing and open for business as Midwest Region No. 2 seed MSU (28-6) prepares to take on No. 3 seed Kansas (27-7) in the regional semifinals Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Sunday's second-round win over Southern Cal improved Izzo's record to 13-2 in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend - all of which involve one day to prepare.
MSU's coaches, managers and video staff - video coordinator Jordan Ott and assistant video coordinator Doug Herner, Sexton's former coach - use cutting-edge technology to scout an opponent.
"You do get obsessed," Izzo said. "You're preaching to your players that one play makes a difference. My job as a coach is to make sure one play doesn't surprise me or my players."
MSU was ready, for example, for USC's triangle-and-two and box-and-one zones. The Spartans already played Kansas once this season, winning 75-62 on Jan. 10, but the scouting for this meeting will be more meticulous.
"You get a little anal, a little goofy," Izzo said. "I've got 10 managers up there who work harder than I do, and they keep throwing stuff at me. And I love it, it's awesome.
"All the rocks have been turned over, all the stones have been flipped. We know what's going on. There will be no surprises." Lansing State Journal
Morningstar, who has shot an impressive 42.7 percent from three this season, was willing to use the word slump. Of course, he also seemed totally convinced that the first one he fires up against Michigan State on Friday night will go in the basket.
“You just gotta keep shooting the ball,” Morningstar said. “It’ll eventually fall. Shooters don’t hit every shot. Sometimes, you go on slumps. That’s just the way it is. That’s life. My shot feels the same. It’s just not going in right now. I’m not worried about it.”
The best shooters know when something’s not right with their form. While Morningstar said that nothing is wrong with his shot, Reed has identified a common problem with his.
“Usually when it comes off my hand, I can tell if it’s going to be in or not,” Reed said. “It seems like when I miss my shots, I don’t get a lot of arch. I work on it every day. I’m gonna have arch the next time I shoot the ball. That’s the way I think. I’ve shot so many shots in my life, it’s usually a quick fix. You’ve just gotta have the confidence to make the next one.”
Much of that confidence comes from positive reinforcement from Self ? no, not struggling ? and point guard Sherron Collins.
“I just tell them to keep shooting it,” Collins said. “During the game, the next time out, ‘Shoot it again. It’s going to fall.’ ”
Collins could certainly use any help he can get from Reed and Morningstar, who free up more of the lane for him when they’re dropping threes.
“I know if I get Brady all those shots again, he’d hit them,” Collins said.
And, who knows, maybe one of those shots will be for a chance to make the Elite Eight or the Final Four. For kids from Kansas such as Reed (Burlington) and Morningstar (Lawrence), that would be something special.
“That’s what you dream of,” Reed said. “When you’re sitting there watching the NCAA Tournament as a kid, you always want to be in those shoes to where you can step up and hit a big shot.”
For Kansas, right?
“Oh,” Reed said. “Definitely for Kansas.” KC Star*
Kansas guard Sherron Collins, coming off a combined 57-point performance in two games last weekend, was asked if he was motivated by other guards around the country getting more attention than he has this season.
“I think I don’t get as much respect as I deserve,” Collins said, “but that’s for the whole team, not just me. I think our whole team doesn’t get enough respect.”
?KU center Cole Aldrich certainly has the country’s respect after his triple-double against Dayton. Coach Bill Self was asked how he thought Aldrich would handle all of the attention.
“He still needs to remember that ‘Hey, I’m just a kid that’s trying to have a good time and try hard,’ ” Self said. “He doesn’t need to think ‘I need to do this to validate what I just did.’ ”
?Self was asked a recurring question: What happens if Collins or Aldrich isn’t on their game? “They’re not going to play bad ? I’ve decided,” Self joked.
Draymond Green wasn't much of a factor in Michigan State's first game against Kansas, contributing one bucket, one rebound and making one of two free throws in 7 minutes on Jan. 10.
That was a few weeks before Green's breakout game against Indiana, when he led the team with 15 points, and a few months before MSU found Green to be a valuable addition off the bench during the postseason. In his first two NCAA tournament games, Green has scored 16 points (against Robert Morris) and grabbed nine rebounds (against Southern Cal).
Green, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward from Saginaw High, should be more of a factor when the Spartans play Kansas on Friday at Indianapolis in the Sweet 16.
"I think in Draymond's case, he's grown up a lot," coach Tom Izzo said during his news conference Tuesday. "He'd be the first to tell you. Early on, something would go wrong, I'm on his tail, he's pouting half the time, then he comes back out of it, then he's pouting. He's been so much more consistent in the last month, and I think it's just part of the freshman process."
..."He can guard the four-man and hopefully help the big fellas on Aldrich," Suton said. "Be active and get us some offensive rebounds to get us going, because that's what he does. He makes big plays and he gets bigger rebounds. He's a pretty good defender -- deceivingly long, deceivingly athletic. I wouldn't underestimate him."
EATING LIGHT: Statistics from the January game against Kansas would indicate that Aldrich got the best of Suton when they matched up at the Breslin Center.
Suton played 22 minutes and had six points and seven rebounds. Aldrich had 14 points and 11 boards.
Suton, though, was sick that day. Whether that made a difference, no one knows, but Suton looks forward to taking on Aldrich now that he's healthy.
"Trust me, I was seeing stars the whole time I was out there," Suton said.
At that time, Suton blamed a batch of bad sushi he had eaten for the stomach pains during the game. Though he hasn't given up his raw fish habit, he will be more careful about when he eats it.
"I had sushi yesterday, and I think I'm good for the week," Suton said. Detroit Free Press
1. Health. There have been so few occasions this season when the Spartans were not bothered by some injury or ailment. They're whole right now. Goran Suton, who missed some early losses, showed his value by shutting down USC's surging Taj Gibson in the second round. Raymar Morgan, who struggled with mono a month ago, is back delivering his attacking drives.
2. Confidence. When a non-scorer steps forward in this atmosphere and scores, it is the sign of a team that has great institutional belief. A defensive specialist, Travis Walton has played four years for the Spartans and never scored 18 points until their second-round win over USC. In that victory, he made shots because his team needed them. That means there are at least six Spartans who could deliver big scoring games if the opportunity is presented, which is a huge advantage given how closely tournament games are scouted.
3. They've done it before. Kansas and Michigan State played Jan. 10 in East Lansing, and the Spartans -- during one of the few stretches when they weren't bothered by injuries -- dominated. Is it harder to beat a great team when you've already done it once? Ask Pitt (which swept Connecticut) or North Carolina (which swept Duke) or Louisville (same thing against Syracuse). Everybody else in this round is attempting to solve a mystery. Michigan State has been where it wants to go.
Three reasons Kansas will win
1. Cole Aldrich. Sporting News college football ace Matt Hayes watched Cole Aldrich play those 17 minutes against North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough last April and e-mailed a declaration that Aldrich was the best pro prospect at the Final Four. Maybe an overstatement given that Derrick Rose was there, but it's possible Mr. Hayes missed his calling. Aldrich has been sensational this season, and as well as MSU did against Gibson, Aldrich is a tougher challenge because of his superior size and strength.
2. Sherron Collins. We'll keep saying this until it becomes accepted as fact: Collins was the most important player in KU's run to the 2008 NCAA championship. He made the biggest plays, the biggest shots. Mario Chalmers gets to have his 3-pointer replayed forever, but it wouldn't have happened if not for Collins' big 3s against Davidson and North Carolina, as well as the steal and 3-pointer that launched the comeback against Memphis. Collins is the most physically powerful point guard left in the tournament, and that muscle will be a challenge for Walton, who is likely to defend him.
3. Championship pedigree. Until somebody removes them from the tournament, the Jayhawks are the defending champions. They have made certain everybody understands they are not "defending their championship," given the substantial roster turnover from last season's team. But there is a confidence that goes with having already won the title. Think of all the times Duke, North Carolina and Indiana have made the Final Four, even with some of their less imposing teams. Duke in 1994, Carolina in 2000, Indiana in 2002. Those teams expect to advance. Who's going to believe that more right now than Kansas? Mike DeCourcy
How could anyone lose in this? This was a classic. A battle of guts. All right, so Michigan State comes home today, their NCAA tournament over two wins shy of the Final Four.
Don't look for tears here. This was more of a Spartans' victory than a lot of victories, this 96-86 loss to Kansas. For this was a night when the team that drew its life's blood from a jut-jawed young man named Scott Skiles, suddenly found itself without him for seven minutes that could have killed the Spartans. They didn't shrivel. They didn't bleed. They didn't die.
This was a night that a game went into overtime only because of a missed free throw by an MSU freshman, a game that may have been lost because of a timekeeping error. Either way, just for the Spartans to have come that far was amazing.
For seven minutes of the first half, they fought against the obvious.
Skiles was on the bench with three fouls and there was no way they should even stay on the court. They stayed. And when Skiles returned in the second half and helped pull his team back into the game, they were all wearing amulets of courage around their necks, these Spartans, and you can't ask for more of a victory than that.
There was Barry Fordham -- Barry Fordham? -- who isn't supposed to score points, scoring points because, well, because he had to. And Larry Polec pulling down rebounds he wasn't supposed to get -- Kansas, remember, is so much taller -- because he had to. And Skiles, fighting off the defenders that stuck to him like wet jeans.
This was an all-out war between a team everyone had predicted would be great, Kansas, and one no one gave a chance, MSU. When it was over, the Kansas coach would call the Spartans "the toughest team he ever had to face." It was blood and guts all night and it would come down to the final seconds, that much you could tell.
But back up a minute. For this was a game played in the eye of the hurricane, 37 miles from the campus the Jayhawks call home. And by NCAA tournament standards, that's your backyard. The noise inside Kemper Arena was frightening -- no matter how long you sat there you never got used to it -- because with every basket the concrete seemed to rattle. Kansas fans.
Kansas had soared on this kind of support all season long, riding it -- and a cornfield worth of talent -- to a Big Eight title and a No. 2 ranking. They had a legitimate superstar in Danny Manning and three other guys, Calvin Thompson, Ron Kellogg and Greg Dreiling, who had more than 1,000 points each in their Kansas careers. They had a touch of flash in guard Cedric Hunter and a coach named Larry Brown who spends every spring in the NCAA tournament.
In other words, no surprise they were here.
Michigan State, on the other hand, was the unexpected guest your kid brings home from college on spring break. The NCAA experts figured the Spartans would be gone by now, neatly eliminated, and instead they had to clean out the spare bedroom and put on new sheets. "Make them green and white," the Spartans seemed to say, confidently, as if they were sure they'd be around for at least another week.
The first half of this game was MSU flashing a new identity, missing Skiles -- who was on the bench with three fouls -- but not folding. The second half was MSU whittling down a nine-point deficit to pull ahead as the game drew toward an end.
And the last few minutes? The last few minutes were incredible. It was a noisy blur like the view through a subway window. The teams trading baskets, time ticking away. A technical foul on Kansas that sent Skiles to the line with less than two minutes left and every Jayhawks fan in the place wanting his head. The Spartans had an 80-74 lead with 1:39 left, but somehow you knew this was fated to come down to the last seconds. And it did.
What a script! Here, after a game where the superstars (Skiles, Manning) had been both brilliant and foul-plagued, the thing was resting on a foul shot by a Spartans freshman named Mark Brown, who looks like he's in fifth grade. He had been put in the game to handle an in-bounds pass, and the skeptics will question why a freshman should do that in a game as big as this. Question away. It won't change anything. With an 80-78 MSU lead, Brown's shot bounced off the rim, Kansas rebounded, pushed it downcourt and tied it up.
It went into overtime, and there Kansas just had too much.
But OK. It didn't go the way Michigan State wanted. But it couldn't have been any gutsier. It couldn't have been any tougher. And they couldn't be asked to do any more.
This is the way the NCAA tournament works. Each game is a new season for two teams, and each buzzer means one of those seasons must end. This morning is another springtime for Kansas, and it feels like winter in Michigan.
As if he didn’t hear it enough, Harrison Barnes now has one more commonality with former Ames High guard Fred Hoiberg.
?Both hold the title of Gatorade’s Iowa Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
?Barnes picked up the award on Tuesday, becoming just the third honoree in Ames High history (the other is Ross Marsden, who was the 2004-05 recipient). And he didn’t even know it was coming.
?“I thought you had to be a senior to be eligible,” Barnes said. “It’s a very humbling experience to get it as a junior.”
?Barnes averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season as the Little Cyclones recorded a 26-0 perfect season and picked up the Class 4A state championship. He shot 60 percent from the floor and nearly tied the Ames High record for 3-point percentage.
?The 6-foot-7 wing holds more than a dozen scholarship offers from schools including Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, USC, and his hometown team, Iowa State.
?Coach Vance Downs said Barnes likely could have raised his own numbers on any given night, but concentrated on finding his team the best shot. And even as his own game was progressively improving, Downs was impressed by the way Barnes helped teammates make progress, too.
?“There were times throughout the season where he would make it a personal project to help develop another player,” Downs said. “He’d always be coaching.”
?Downs said he’d received several phone calls during the past week indicating Barnes was the top candidate for the award, but didn’t let the news slip until Tuesday afternoon. Now Barnes is eligible for the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.
?While Barnes doesn’t receive any Gatorade as part of the Iowa Player of the Year package, he knows which color, if not which flavor, he’d select, given the choice.
?“I actually love Gatorade. I like light blue,” Barnes said. “What flavor is that?” Ames Tribune
In its third decade of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in partnership with ESPN RISE, today announced Perry Ellis of Wichita Heights High School as its 2008-09 Gatorade Kansas Boys Basketball Player of the Year.? Ellis is the first Gatorade Kansas Boys Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Wichita Heights High School.?
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excell ence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Ellis as Kansas' best high school boys basketball player.? Ellis is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award to be announced in late March. Link
Just two of our top 10 ? No. 1 Lincoln and No. 2 Rice ? are still practicing. But, oh, what a game they are preparing for ? a showdown with one another in Glens Falls. The New York City playoffs are over, but Glens Falls looms. For everyone else, next season has already started.
We have it here in our New York City boys’ basketball rankings:
1. Lincoln (22-10) (Last week: 1)
As the great Tom Konchalski said of Lance Stephenson: “You can't say anyone's better. He's won four championships and set the state scoring record. What else is there to conquer?” Really, there is nothing left to say. He has done it all at Lincoln. Consider this weekend the cherry on top of the sundae. We wouldn’t bet against Mr. Born Ready.
Next: March 29 vs. No. 2 Rice in state Federation Class AA semifinals @ Glens Falls Civic Center
2. Rice (23-3) (2)
It’s the game all of New York City has been waiting for ? No. 1 Lincoln and No. 2 Rice ? the best player, Lance Stephenson, against the best defender, Durand Scott. That the showdown will be played three hours north of New York City is unfortunate; imagine if the game was held at LIU or Fordham. Still it is a true city championship, the Catholic league’s best against the PSAL’s finest.
Next: March 29 vs. No. 1 Lincoln in state Federation Class AA semifinals @ Glens Falls Civic Center FiveBoroSports.com
Derby Festival Classic Rosters, photos, bios (Elijah Johnson)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11 What: high school basketball all-star game Where: Freedom Hall, Louisville Tickets: $17 and $12; available at TicketMaster locations (www.ticketmaster.com), the Freedom Hall Ticket Office, or by phone at (502) 361-3100 or (800) 487-1212 Louisville Courier-Journal
Memphis has length, quickness, depth, defensive intensity and winning confidence. If the Tigers shoot like they did in Kansas City ? 50.8 percent from the field, 44.7 percent from 3-point range ? they're tough to beat.
"For us, free throw shooting and 3-point shooting are the deciding factors," Calipari said.
Perhaps the memories of Kansas 75, Memphis 68 aren't an issue with Tigers, Version 2K9. But at the Sprint Center during last Thursday's first-round games, highlights of the championship game were played three different times on the scoreboard video screen above the court.
Mario Chalmers' game-tying 3-pointer keeps going in and the Jayhawks keep dominating in overtime. And the same video is likely to be shown at the University of Phoenix Stadium during the West Regional.
"Nobody is worried about last year, none of the players or coaches," Anderson said. "That's all behind us." St Louis PD
Looking back: First of all, since I was one of the many voices in the Arizona-shouldn't-have-gotten-a-bid chorus, let me give all due props to Russ Pennell's Wildcats for making the Sweet 16. I'm not a believer that a win or two automatically justifies a bid -- does Wake Forest's first-round loss mean the Deacs should have been left out? -- but Arizona has every right to feel good about what it has accomplished, especially after losing five-of-six down the stretch.
As for my Deacs, who I picked to go to the Final Four (me and my big mouth), their first-round loss to Cleveland State underscores the importance of having experience playing under elimination pressure. Those kids from Cleveland State had already been through multiple Horizon League tournaments knowing that a loss would mean the end of their season. They were used to playing under those circumstances, but the youngsters from Wake Forest were not -- and it showed. Oh, and if Jeff Teague still thinks he's ready for the NBA, he ought to watch tape from the last month of the season.
Looking ahead: I don't take Louisville's close escape against Siena as a sign the Cardinals are flawed. Quite the contrary: they came back to beat a really good team in a really big game. That shows me they are of championship mettle. The problem they will face in their next game is that, unlike Siena, Arizona has a quality big man in Jordan Hill. That means Samardo Samuels is not going to be as effective. (Samuels has had a terrific freshman year, but he tends to disappear against players who are bigger and stronger than he is.) So the question becomes whether Arizona's guards, specifically Nic Wise, can handle Louisville's full-court pressure for 40 minutes. If they can, then they will be right in the ball game.
Meanwhile, Kansas sophomore center Cole Aldrich is coming off one of the best games in NCAA tournament history, a triple-double against Dayton, but as the Spartans showed in shutting down USC's Taj Gibson, they have numerous bigs (most notably Goran Suton) who are excellent in defending the post. And they have a lot of them, whereas Kansas just has one. Advantage, Spartans.
The pick: Wise has been terrific at times, but he's also been careless with the ball -- hence Arizona's inconsistent play late in the season. Louisville has the ability to force Wise into committing mistakes, and the Cards also have the wings to make 'Zona pay in transition. That will be the difference.
In the other game, Michigan State's strength up front, plus its veteran toughness in the backcourt, gives them the edge over Kansas. (If anyone can keep Sherron Collins in check, it's MSU's Travis Walton, one of my All-Glue nominees.)
Much like Arizona, Michigan State's Achilles' heel has been turnovers. That's why Louisville is such a bad matchup for them. I've wondered whether a team who is so suspect at the point can win a national championship, but Louisville has proven it has the chops to at least win two more games.
The Cardinals will utilize their rapid pace and sprint to Detroit. Seth Davis
Something is wrong when a United States president, facing crises that threaten the globe, can pick 14 of the 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament.
Something is amiss a lot worse than UCLA's, uh, miss against Villanova, when a 13-year-old boy, in five minutes between finishing his homework and making chocolate milk, can nail 13 out of 16.
And his dad, the "expert," looking for nuance and romance in the bracket, suddenly seeks annulment for his ill-advised marriage to Dayton.
Note to self (not you, Bill): Never take another flier on the Flyers, especially against Kansas if it has a center named Chamberlain, Manning or Aldrich.
Coming in 2010: Basketball writer and Corky the cocker spaniel square off in NCAA tournament challenge!
Something doesn't feel right when the "feel-good story" at this stage is poor, helpless, out-of-nowhere, 12th-seeded Arizona, which is being asked to take on No. 1 Louisville this week armed with only two first-round NBA draft picks and 25 straight years of NCAA tournament know-how.
This isn't madness . . . it's fairness.
This year's Sweet 16 is about as serendipitous as courtroom stenography.
All you had to do to win the office pool was know how to count to five.
The four top-seeded schools survived the first weekend . . . again. Last year, for the first time, all four No. 1s made it to the Final Four.
Also for the first time, the top three schools in every regional advanced:
East: Pittsburgh, Duke, Villanova.
South: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse.
Midwest: Louisville, Michigan State, Kansas.
West: Connecticut, Memphis, Missouri.
Do any of you really feel proud about advancing those teams?
The lowest-seeded surviving school after Arizona is No. 5 Purdue.
People will try to sell the breakthroughs of the three mid-majors -- Memphis, Xavier and Gonzaga.
Don't buy it.
Memphis may play in a lousy conference (USA), but this is a team that should have won the national title last year. The Tigers haven't lost a basketball game since December. Saturday, in a West Regional whacking, Memphis turned Gary Williams' Atlantic Coast Conference team into the Maryland Terrible-ins. LA Times*
The Baylor Bears made big baskets, grabbed timely rebounds and dodged a few bullets.
Apparently, they're getting the postseason formula down pretty well.
Curtis Jerrells rebounded a missed free throw then made 1-of-2 from the line with 6.9 seconds left and Auburn couldn't convert two late chances to tie or pull ahead, helping the Bears advance to the semifinals of the NIT with a 74-72 win Tuesday night. AP
For the past several months, one of the Big 12 Conference's official sponsors was a creatine-based product even though NCAA rules prohibit colleges from giving the muscle-building supplement to student-athletes.
An ad for Training Day, a slickly packaged supplement from Colorado-based Corr-Jensen Labs, was featured on the Big 12's home page, and the company passed out product samples and T-shirts at the Big 12 football championship in Kansas City, Mo., in December.
But since the American-Statesman began asking questions of the NCAA, the conference has dropped Training Day as a sponsor. Although the company's marketing was not present at this month's conference basketball tournaments in Oklahoma City, signs of the company's relationship with the conference remain: The Big 12 logo still appears on Training Day's three boxed products, and the supplement is still listed as one of 11 "corporate partners" on the Big 12's Web site, which is managed by ESPN as part of the conference's multimedia deal with the sports network.
In a statement, ESPN said, "ESPN, the Big 12 and Training Day have re-evaluated Training Day's product offerings and core target and concluded that a shift in marketing strategies would better suit Training Day's needs. To that end, all involved are in ongoing discussions." For now, Training Day remains a "Big 12 media partner," Corr-Jensen Labs founder Matt Hesse said. "A corporate sponsor is a higher level. It was a little premature."
Hesse said the decision to end the full sponsorship was mutual and acknowledged that concerns had arisen about the Big 12 having a deal with a product that college strength coaches could not provide to their athletesunder NCAA rules.
The NCAA, which became aware of the sponsorship when the American-Statesman inquired about it, does not ban athletes from taking creatine. But nine years ago, after considering a ban on its use, the NCAA prohibited its member schools from distributing creatine and protein-packed supplements to their athletes.
At the time, officials voiced two main concerns. First, they worried about the possible side effects of creatine and other supplements. Second, they were concerned that larger, better-heeled schools could gain a competitive advantage by providing supplements to athletes. Athletes are allowed to buy such products on their own. Testing for creatine would be problematic because it occurs naturally in the body.
"The NCAA's general stance on creatine is that it is unnecessary for health or performance and that nutritional supplement products are not well regulated and may be contaminated with banned ingredients and that student-athletes use nutritional supplements at their own risk," NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said.
On some Web sites that sell the supplement, however, Training Day has been touted as "the first supplement brand to have the endorsement of an NCAA conference, specifically the Big 12."
Dave Hogan, a Corr-Jensen employee, said the Big 12 logo helped assure customers that the product was safe.
Officials for ESPN and the Big 12 took turns shrugging when it came to explaining how Training Day became a sponsor featured on the conference's Web site.
"Everything we do has to be run by the conference office," said Ami Annett of ESPN's regional office.
The Big 12 office said ESPN is responsible for the sponsorships that appear on the site.
Annett declined to say how much it costs to be a Big 12 sponsor. She said the conference will not accept certain products, such as beer and tobacco, as sponsors.
Unlike almost all the other Big 12 corporate sponsors, including Dr Pepper, Phillips 66, Motel 6 and Gatorade, Training Day isn't a household name. It is not even a big name in the supplement business.
Corr-Jensen is a startup company that is 3 years old. It has one other line, Revolution Abdominal Cuts, which is endorsed by former "Bachelorette" TV star Trista Sutter.
The Training Day line has been on the market for three months, Hesse said, and has three products: one designed for preseason, another for game time and a third for postgame. Each box contains 40 servings and sells for $59.99 at GNC stores and for somewhat less online.
The preseason and game-time products both contain creatine. Creatine monohydrate is on the list of ingredients of the preseason product along with waxy maize starch, alpha lipoic acid and L-leucine.
Hesse said his company has not given up on being a corporate sponsor for a conference if it later develops a product that can be distributed by a school.
At least one product, CytoSport's Muscle Milk, changed its formula to come up with a collegiate version that would meet NCAA guidelines. Chris Kildow, director of sports marketing for CytoSport, said Muscle Milk has sponsorships with 16 schools, including the University of Texas and the University of Colorado.
The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.
Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson ? a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager ? between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, NCAA rules barred Nochimson from having contact with Miles or from providing him with anything of value.
A UConn assistant coach said he made Nochimson aware of the Huskies’ recruitment of Miles. Later, the assistant coach said he knew that Nochimson and Miles had talked.
The relationship and UConn’s knowledge of the situation are potential major NCAA violations. The findings are part of Yahoo! Sports’ ongoing look into the changing role of agents and their impact on college basketball. Agents aren’t just recruiting players from college programs, they are recruiting players for them, according to an NCAA official.
The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from head coach Jim Calhoun. Yahoo! Sports obtained the records through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents were requested in October and received two weeks ago. Many of UConn’s communications with Nochimson were clustered with calls and texts to Miles or his inner circle.
UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway and Calhoun declined comment through a university spokesman late Tuesday.
Arizona would have to pay more than $2 million to lure any of the high-profile coaches such as Mark Few (Gonzaga) or Sean Miller (Xavier), or even the out-of-reach names such as Rick Pitino (Louisville), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) or John Calipari (Memphis). The Wildcats also would have to change the way they travel with chartered trips, something that teams in the Pac-10 don't normally do. This would be needed to ensure that the facilities are upgraded with more than just a new court to practice on without oodles of amenities. There's nothing wrong with going down a peg in the coaching search, but the Wildcats will be facing an Indiana-like start-up next season, and this program has missed out on two recruiting classes. So whoever gets the gig better get at least seven to eight seasons to turn it around. Interim coach Russ Pennell isn't a candidate. But he does want to be a head coach, as long as it's the right situation for his family. Pennell, who was on Tuesday's ESPNU college basketball podcast , said quality of life will be a driving factor in any choice he makes.
??The Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register reported that VCU coach Anthony Grant is the front-runner for the Alabama vacancy and that VCU granted permission for the Tide to talk to Grant. Bama would be a better gig than Georgia. That seems to be the purveying sentiment among coaches in the region. If Grant is to move, this would seem the most logical choice because he is familiar with the SEC from his time at Florida. John Pelphrey's move to Arkansas didn't seem to faze Florida head coach Billy Donovan, so tossing in another loyal former assistant into the mix wouldn't be an issue. The Gators' model then would be at three of the 12 SEC schools.
??A perfect domino if it were to come to this would be for Virginia to go after Notre Dame's Mike Brey, a Beltway-connected coach who is of high character, and then for Siena's Fran McCaffery to go back to Notre Dame, where he was once an assistant to Digger Phelps. If Virginia were to call Brey, I would be surprised if he wouldn't go for the right offer. Andy Katz
Kansas (19-13) defeated Creighton, 79-64, in the second round Monday night to advance.
"Our coaches made it clear that every team we come up against now is going to be good," freshman guard Lyndsay Harris said. "... We're happy to have won. We have to put that game behind us - and how we celebrated - and get back to working hard because we know this game is going to be harder than the one we played [Monday]."
Especially with a shorter bench.
Junior post Ashley McCray suffered a bruised bone in her knee in the first half of Arkansas' 61-60 overtime win over Oklahoma State, sat out the majority of the game and Harris also tweaked an ankle.
Harris wore a protective boot Tuesday during practice and is expected to be back in the starting lineup Thursday. McCray's status remains doubtful. The positive news, coach Tom Collen said, was that a MRI revealed no cartilage damage Tuesday morning.
McCray's likely absence isn't good news for Arkansas, which will face a strong Jayhawks frontcourt led by Danielle McCray, who averages 20.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.
What the Razorbacks do have on their side is a renewed sense of confidence, Collen said. The overtime win over the Cowgirls was sparked by senior Whitney Jones' game-winning free throw and game-bests with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals. It was the first postseason appearance and win for Jones, who was praised heavily by Collen after the game.
"I think [the win] has made it a success," Jones said, "but I think we still could do more."
The victory was Arkansas' first in more than a month. Before the win, the Razorbacks had an 18-day break after suffering two losses to end the SEC season - a lopsid- ed decision at Auburn and a heartbreaking fall to Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament in North Little Rock.
Collen saw happy, positive and confident faces at practice Tuesday, he said. The players also had a rare moment of verbalizing their confidence in the overtime period with Oklahoma State, Harris said.
After the Cowgirls' Andrea Riley missed the first of two free throws with 3:40 remaining in overtime, Harris recalled sophomore guard Shanita Arnold telling her teammates on the court, "We're not losing this game."
Collen could sense the confidence from his stance near the Arkansas bench.
"Coming out of every timeout it seemed there were some crucial times when we really needed to get stops, and I felt we were really determined as a team - right down to the last player - to get those stops," Collen said. "It was a good thing to see. It's a maturation process for them."
Arkansas meets Kansas at 7 p.m. in Lawrence, Kan., on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I feel like [the confidence] is back," Collen said. "When you go out on the road, you've got to have that." NWAnews.com