College Basketball Nation: Cole Aldrich

Kentucky, Kansas advance in different ways

March, 24, 2012
The Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks advanced to the Elite Eight, but both teams took very different paths to get there.

(1) Kentucky 102, (4) Indiana 90
Kentucky avenged one of its two losses with a fast-paced attack that the Indiana Hoosiers were unable to slow down.

In fact, Kentucky's 102 points are the most ever against Indiana in the Men's Basketball Championship.

Kentucky scored 24 points in transition and has now scored 20-plus transition points in each of its three Men's Basketball Championship games. Kentucky’s 70 total transition points are the most of any team in the tournament.

Another factor in becoming the only tournament team this year to score 100 points was that Kentucky made 35 of 37 free throws.

That's the most makes for the Wildcats in a Men's Basketball Championship game. The 94.6 free throw percentage is the highest in tournament history of any team with at least 30 attempts.

Overall it's Kentucky's 12th 100-point game in the Men's Basketball Championship, giving the Wildcats sole possession of second place.

Kentucky advances to the Elite Eight for the third straight season and will face the Baylor Bears Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

(2) Kansas 60, (11) NC State 57
Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in the last 11 seasons, but had to fend off a late North Carolina State Wolfpack surge to get there.

What ultimately won the game for Kansas was its domination down low. The Jayhawks controlled the interior by taking 42 shots from inside the paint and outscoring the Wolfpack, 44-22.

Kansas’ presence down low was also a major factor on the defensive side of the ball as Jeff Withey registered 10 blocked shots.

That’s tied with former Jayhawk Cole Aldrich for second-most in Men’s Basketball Championship history. Only Shaquille O'Neal (11) had more blocks than Withey and Aldrich in a single tournament game.

Also of note was Thomas Robinson who dropped an 18-point, 15-rebound performance. That gave Robinson 26 double-doubles, breaking Drew Gooden’s single-season school record of 25, set in 2002.

Kansas now moves on to play the North Carolina Tar Heels for a chance at the Final Four.

Summer Buzz: Kansas Jayhawks

August, 13, 2010
For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject? Kansas. Up next? No one. This is the last buzz of the summer. Stay tuned for more previews from us very soon, though.

Kansas will still be very, very good.

When you think about it, that's kind of insane. After all, Kansas just waved goodbye to its three best players -- the heart-and-soul captain in senior Sherron Collins, one of the most intimidating big men in the country in Cole Aldrich, and a preternaturally smooth scorer in Xavier Henry -- and, even with teams like Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri in hot pursuit, Jayhawks fans still have reason to like their conference title chances.

Last season, commentators sometimes joked that if Kansas only played its second five, it would still be a top 25 team. This year, we get to test that theory for real.

Of course, it's not quite that exact. There's the addition of uber-recruit Josh Selby, who will compete with Duke's Kyrie Irving and Kentucky's Brandon Knight for the John Wall Memorial Freshman Point Guard of the Year award in 2010-11. That is, if Selby plays; the NCAA is still investigating his relationship with Carmelo Anthony's business manager and hasn't yet indicated whether Selby will be able to play by the time the season starts.

Kansas also has the benefit of keeping a pair of starters -- guard Tyshawn Taylor and forward Marcus Morris -- who have been resigned to role player positions for much of their careers. This season, both could prove their stardom.

Morris is perhaps the better candidate. He was the No. 56-ranked player in the country in offensive rating last season; his 120.7 was far and away Kansas' best. At 6-foot-8, Morris isn't the intimidating defender or shot blocker that Aldrich was, but he's far more skilled on the offensive end, and his outside touch has extended almost to the three-point line in recent seasons.

Taylor, for his part, isn't the offensive player Collins or Henry was, even in limited possessions. But he does have two major advantages: Speed and defense. Taylor can get to the rim on the break as quickly as any guard in the country, and his steal rate of 3.2 in 2009-10 counted as a major defensive contribution.

In many ways, Kansas is better prepared to deal with the loss of Cole Aldrich -- last season's most dominant interior defensive player -- than their personnel would indicate. That's because Kansas was already guard-dominant, even with Aldrich in the lineup. Assuming Selby gets eligible, Kansas will have a coterie of guards -- Taylor, Brady Morningstar, newcomer Royce Woolridge -- with it they can push the pace. With Morris' range, transitioning to a faster, more diverse Jayhawks attack team might be the only way forward.

The biggest hole to fill, then, will be Aldrich's defensive presence. The center blocked 12.97 percent of his opponents' shot attempts in 2009-10, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Even with Marcus' taller brother Markieff Morris sliding into a starting role, the Jayhawks are not going to be able to recreate Aldrich's dominant shot-blocking ability. That's tough ... but it's also where better defensive ball pressure and depth at the guard positions can come into play. Since 2005-06, a Bill Self-coached Kansas team has never finished outside of the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency; even with Aldridge gone, that statistic seems unlikely to change in 2010-11.

In other words, Kansas will look remarkably different in 2010-11, but the results, if not quite as impressive as last season's, should look similar.

Bad luck for Lavin

April, 26, 2010
New St. John's coach Steve Lavin was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Mets tonight, but the baseball gods had other ideas, and the game has been rained out.

That didn't prevent Lavin from donning a No. 1 Mets jersey and soaking up a day with the New York media, of course.

Others from the college basketball world have gotten to take the major league mound this offseason, including Saint Mary's guard Mickey McConnell (A's) and Kansas center Cole Aldrich (Royals), who felt the need to practice for the big day.

Butler coach Brad Stevens will have his day at Wrigley Field next month, and New Mexico coach Steve Alford got to pitch for the minor league Albuquerque Isotopes after the sprinklers came on to send his team scattering.

But due to wetness, Lavin didn't even get to throw at Citi Field at a time when he'll need events like these to help announce his arrival to the scene in New York.

Publicity, after all, will only help him make pitches to recruits, who late in the game are now suddenly considering St. John's.

In 2010, everyone is going pro

March, 30, 2010
In 2010, lots of people who'd be better off not entering the NBA draft are going to, with utmost certainty, be entering the NBA draft. Prepare yourself.

Why? Quite simply, the NBA's potential lockout looms over the 2011 season and the 2011 NBA draft like the big money-sucking vacuum out of that weird animated Goodyear commercial that's been on every tournament telecast since March 18. With the chance the draft won't be around next year, or, if it is, that teams won't be able to offer their draftees contracts until an ongoing dispute between owners and the NBA players' association is settled, pretty much everyone who has even an outsider's shot at the NBA this year is going to be testing those waters early and often.

Tommy Mason-Griffin started the trend. Yesterday, UTEP's Derrick Caracter continued it. Of course, this goldrush includes players like Cole Aldrich, likely lottery picks that should be going pro this year, guys whose best interests would be served by the draft even if it wasn't a lockout year. It will also include guys like Michigan's Manny Harris, who announced he was leaving John Beilein's program Monday. Harris is currently at the tail end of the second round of Chad Ford's NBA mock (Insider); there's a decent chance he'll go undrafted.

At some point, you wonder if doing the counterintuitive thing would be the best strategy. If there's going to be an NBA draft run this year, and you can afford to stick around for another year (two or more is better, but beggars can't be choosers), maybe you take the risk, stay in school, and hope the lockout thing works out? Maybe you boost your draft status simply by not being in the morass that will be 2010's overstuffed draft. It's has a higher ratio of risk to reward, but anything beats this 2010 draft. The bad decisions -- in so far as you can call them that -- are just going to keep rolling in.

Loss alters complexion of Kansas' season

March, 21, 2010
Marcus MorrisAP Photo/Sue OgrockiMarcus, left, and Markieff Morris sit in the locker room after a disappointing loss to Northern Iowa.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- I took a left out of the triumphant Northern Iowa locker room and saw the saddest sight of the NCAA tournament to date.

Kansas Jayhawks Cole Aldrich and Tyrel Reed were walking down the hallway toward their locker room after doing the post-shocker news conference. Aldrich had his left arm draped over Reed’s shoulders. Reed had his right arm around Aldrich’s waist. Their eyes were on the floor and their mouths were silent.

This was more a case of misery needing company, than loving it. It looked for all the world as though the teammates might sit down and cry if they didn’t have each other to lean on.

“We had a good season,” Reed said. “Just didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”

That is the cruel reality of the Big Dance. The outcome here can completely alter perceptions of an entire season -- for better or worse. And for Kansas, it is immeasurably worse.

[+] EnlargeCole Aldrich
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDespite a Big 12 regular-season and conference-tournament championship, multiple weeks at No. 1 and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, Cole Aldrich and Kansas fell far short of expectations.
Thirty-three wins, all but wasted. All that time ranked No. 1, and the No. 1 overall NCAA seed? Virtually worthless.

And now all those tickets Kansas fans already had bought for the Midwest Regional in St. Louis next week? Almost worthless as well. Good luck getting those sold for decent value.

A shocking upset ending to a Kansas season is not unusual -- no team can match the school’s three second-round defeats as a No. 1 seed. The losses in 1994 to UTEP and ‘98 to Rhode Island -- those were on Roy Williams’ record. This one belongs to Bill Self.

And it marks the third ghastly NCAA upset for Self since he’s been in Lawrence. In 2005, the third-seeded Jayhawks lost in the first round to No. 14 Bucknell, and in ’06 as a No. 4 seed to No. 13 Bradley. This time, Kansas lost to a better team -- but this was a better Jayhawks team, too.

No wonder Self told his staff afterward that this was the toughest loss of his career.

“You operate under duress, you operate under pressures the whole year that a lot of teams don’t operate under because of where we were ranked and the expectations,” Self said. “And to put ourselves in a position that we were in, they don’t come around every year. You got to make the most of those opportunities when you’re granted them. That’s probably what stings the most.”

In the stinging end, KU fans are left to recriminate over a night of poor shooting (just 6-of-23 from 3-point range, with Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor combining to go 0-for-11). And a night of sloppy ball handling (15 turnovers). And a night of questionable strategy.

Knowing that Northern Iowa’s best weapon would be its slow-down tempo, Kansas played directly into the Panthers’ hands for most of the night. Even though UNLV nearly eliminated Northern Iowa on Thursday with full-game pressure defense, the Jayhawks didn’t turn to that option until late in the game and were well behind.

When they did, it worked wonders. UNI handled the pressure atrociously, nearly giving away the game in the final minutes. But it turned out to be too little and way too late.

“We would love to get after them, love to pressure, love to press,” Self said. “But when they were in the bonus at the under-12 timeout (of the first half), it maybe took a little aggressiveness out of us.”

It’s also fair to wonder whether Kansas was lacking some aggressiveness from the opening tip due to overconfidence. Aldrich and Reed both said that wasn’t the case.

“I don’t think we overlooked them at all,” Reed said. “I think we knew what they were capable of. They’re just a great all-around team, play in a tough league, and they’ve got a lot of great players.”

So did this Kansas team. And now its great season has been sullied by a disastrous early exit.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thousands of players have come through college basketball in the last 18 years.

Only 15 have two national titles. Since 1992 only three head coaches have won two national championships -- North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Florida’s Billy Donovan and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun.

[+] EnlargeSherron Collins
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesSherron Collins, the Big 12 tournament's most valuable player, will try to lead the Jayhawks to another national title.
The list of coaches could grow by one if Kansas’ Bill Self were to win a second title next month, while the collection of players could grow by three if the top-ranked Jayhawks, one of three likely favorites, were to win the championship April 6 in Indianapolis. Coaches have more opportunities. Players don’t.

We spend so much time talking about coaches winning a second national title and how rare that is still today. But what about the unique story of how difficult it is for the players to win twice in this era of early departures to the NBA draft?

It’s almost impossible, or rather implausible.

But it could happen for KU's Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Brady Morningstar, along with Tyrel Reed, Chase Buford and Conner Teahan.

Among that group, Collins played the most significant role on the 2008 national title team. Aldrich emerged as a threat in the Final Four off the bench inside. Reed averaged around six minutes a game. Morningstar redshirted that season, but was still a part of the roster.

“We can finally talk about a national championship run now,’’ said Collins after Kansas’ 72-64 Big 12 tournament title victory over Kansas State at the Sprint Center Saturday, completing the sweep of the Wildcats in three games, and more importantly a rare double-dip with a regular-season and conference tournament title.

“This is the reason me and Cole came back to school,’’ said Collins, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring 12 points, dishing out seven assists to just two turnovers in 36 minutes. “To be mentioned with some of those greats, some of those great teams, that’s special if we can go down in history like that.’’

Kentucky won national titles in 1996 and ’98 under two different coaches. The first one came under Rick Pitino, the second led by Tubby Smith. There were five holdovers on both teams that won two championships – Cameron Mills, Jeff Sheppard, Wayne Turner, Nazr Mohammed and Allen Edwards.

Florida pulled off the first consecutive national championships since Duke in 1991 and ’92 when a collection of recruits calling themselves the ‘04s stayed together instead of opting for the NBA and won championships in 2006 and ’07. The seven scholarship players and three walk-ons who can claim two national championships were: Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Walter Hodge and Chris Richard. The three walk-ons that can boast for the rest of their lives that they have two rings as well are Jack Berry, Brett Swanson and Garrett Tyler.

It may seem like a high number of players in the past 18 years because of Florida’s consecutive titles. But it’s not. Just think of how many players compete in Division I every season. Now consider how rare it is for any of them to be in the Final Four, let alone win a national title. Then take it a step further and ponder how difficult it would be to do it twice.

[+] EnlargeCole Aldrich and Sherron Collins
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireAldrich and Collins celebrated their third victory over KSU this season. Now it's on to the Big Dance.
That’s the kind of history this trio of Kansas players is on the verge of completing if the Jayhawks can win six games.

“In this era of one-and-done, it’s hard to do it,’’ Collins said. “It’s not going to be easy, but it would be special.’’

The Jayhawks had momentum in 2008 and were one of the four favorites with UCLA, North Carolina and Memphis in an all-chalk Final Four. But there was perhaps more experience on that squad, especially upfront.

“We were more mature,’’ Collins said. “We had a lot of guys who knew what to do. We’ll still have to talk to some of these guys and help them understand to get them all ready.’’

Xavier Henry is a freshman entering his first NCAA tournament. This is the first time that Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed and Marcus and Markieff Morris will be in the role of major contributors.

“I don’t think we’re as defensively sound, or as consistently defensively sound as that team in 2008,’’ Collins said. “We do it in spurts. If you’re going to win, it’s going to be because of our defense. You’ve got to be a defensive team in the tournament and make teams play better than you do.’’

Clearly Morningstar and Aldrich have a different approach versus 2008. It’s easy for Morningstar since he wasn’t even playing then, while Aldrich was simply a role player asked to hustle, board and run the floor.

“It’s pretty cool to know that you could be a part of something like this, not just one championship but a chance to win two,’’ Morningstar said. “There aren’t a lot of easy games, even in the first and second round. It’s about not having distractions. We had a big shot guy then (in Mario Chalmers), but we’ve got one right here in Sherron. We’ve got another one in Cole at the four and Marcus at the three. We’ve got the different pieces to do what we want to do.’’

As iconic as Tyler Hansbrough was at North Carolina during his career, he still only had one title after Kansas crushed the Tar Heels in the 2008 national semifinal before Hansbrough returned to attempt to win one in 2009. Hansbrough was fortunate when Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green opted to withdraw from the NBA draft. Carolina was experienced, talented and driven to win in 2009 -- and did.

The Jayhawks had similar luck when Henry got out of his national letter to join Kansas once then-Memphis coach John Calipari split for Kentucky. Avoiding any injuries has been a blessing. Now KU stands at 32-2 and the Jayhawks have gone through most of the season as the favorite, destined to be in Oklahoma City for the first two rounds and likely St. Louis for the next two en route to Indianapolis as possibly the No. 1 overall seed.

“The reason Sherron and I came back was because we knew we had a great group of guys and had a chance of cutting down the nets in April,’’ Aldrich said of a possible second title. “It sounds easier on paper then to go through it. But if we can, it would be really special -- really special -- to be a part of such a rich and historic tradition at Kansas.’’

Halftime: Kansas 31, Kansas State 27

March, 13, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Quick hitters here at Sunflower State central:

  • Kansas probably has a 65-35 split in fans. That was evident during introductions when the two team videos were unveiled. The KU one probably pushed the noise meter a bit higher.
  • Kansas State may win this game -- may -- but it’s obvious that Kansas is the better team and more capable of winning the national title. The Jayhawks simply don’t rely on a pair of players like Kansas State. Kansas early went to Cole Aldrich, then saw the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff get active around the basket or facing it. And then there is Sherron Collins. He’s simply just better at making plays than anyone on Kansas State. Collins gets to the hole to create for himself and others. He had eight points, four assists and zero turnovers in the first half as Kansas built a 31-27 lead at the break.
  • My one knock on Aldrich is he can start quickly but then tends to fade. Aldrich picked up a ridiculous second foul during a scrum for a loose ball. We’ll see if that becomes a factor in the second half.
  • Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Aldrich’s replacement, needs to learn a pump fake. He came into the game, took two post shots and got them both blocked.
  • If you’re looking for one stat to show the aggression of one versus the other, look to the free-throw line where Kansas is 8-of-10 and Kansas State didn’t attempt a free throw.
  • Here’s a stat you can’t ignore. Kansas State isn’t going to win unless Jacob Pullen makes shots. He was 1-of-7 in the first half and missed all three 3-pointers. That has to change if Kansas State is going to win the game. The one blessing for the Wildcats is they are getting some production from various role players like Curtis Kelly, Rodney McGruder, Wally Judge and Jamar Samuels.
  • What is Luis Colon doing? He missed two shots, picked up two fouls and played eight minutes. To deserve more time on the court he needs to be more productive.
  • I’ve covered every power six conference tournament and I would reiterate that Kansas City, when Kansas is in the final, is one of the best for atmospheric presentation. The Big 12 and the downtown do a solid job in creating a pre-game frenzy outside with the bars and restaurants. There is a street fair type of atmosphere. Tickets were going for $200 to $400, apparently, according to the licensed scalpers outside.
  • Everyone seems to be in quite a good mood here despite some dreary weather. I’ve been here for three days and haven’t seen the sun.

Kansas outlasts ornery A&M

March, 12, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas has one more game left before it can probably rid itself of Big 12 opponent intensity until possibly the Elite Eight.

The Jayhawks have dominated the Big 12 this season, losing only once. So it was natural for Texas A&M to be a bit tired of the love fest for the Jayhawks in conference. It didn’t help that the Jayhawks were playing in Phog Allen Fieldhouse East here at the Sprint Center. The Aggies held the lead for nearly 30 minutes before Kansas flipped a switch and re-asserted itself as the favorite -- not just in this league, but arguably in the country -- with a 79-66 victory.

The Aggies, playing without injured Dash Harris (bone bruise in his hand), had been the aggressor for most of the night, especially Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes. But when Kansas went with a zone, the Aggies couldn’t make shots. The run outs for Kansas were ideal for Sherron Collins and set up some 3s for Xavier Henry. The Morris twins had their moments, Marcus and Markieff, especially the latter when he got into it with Bryan Davis for a double technical. That sent Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon into a frenzy, challenging the officials to look at Collins, too. You could tell the two teams were tired of playing against each other, even though they only played one time this season.

The Aggies should get a high enough seed to avoid a team like Kansas in the NCAAs. Texas A&M has faced a No. 1 seed in the second round as a result of winning the eight-nine game two years in a row. If Harris is healthy enough to play next week then the Aggies should be good to go.

Kansas, meanwhile, still has some swagger to deal with: either Kansas State (the Big 12 dream scenario) or Baylor in the title game Saturday night. To win the regular-season and conference title game is quite an accomplishment regardless of the level of the league. It proves the players are mentally tougher than most.

Today's Big 12 tournament games

March, 11, 2010
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A few quick hitters before the quarterfinals Thursday:

Texas Tech vs. Kansas, 12:30 p.m. (ET): The Red Raiders had lost seven in a row before beating Colorado in the first round. Colorado had just put 101 points on the Red Raiders last Saturday in a win at Boulder. So clearly Pat Knight’s defensive message got through as the Red Raiders held the Buffaloes to 67 points. But can the Red Raiders pull off the upset of the week by beating top-ranked Kansas? Well, the last time they met, KU stomped on Tech by 26 points. This will be an interesting test for the Jayhawks. This is a game they should win by double figures. If the focus is there, KU should walk to the semifinals. I’d like to see how Sherron Collins steps up his leadership role with the postseason now at hand. I don’t see how the Red Raiders can keep the KU bigs, notably Cole Aldrich off the backboard.

Nebraska vs. Texas A&M, 3 p.m.: The Huskers pulled the stunner of the first day with a crushing win over Missouri. The Huskers ran with Missouri and sprinted past the Tigers. But will Nebraska be able to get out against Texas A&M? Would they want to do such a thing? The Aggies probably were prepping to face Mizzou in a high-octane affair. That won’t be the case now in what could be a grinder of a game. I’m not sure the Aggies would allow Nebraska to shoot over 50 percent the way it did against Missouri. I’m looking forward to seeing how Brandon Richardson and Ryan Anderson, who went off for the Huskers against Missouri get free against the Aggies. Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes for the Aggies are two of the better guards in the conference and Bryan Davis’ ability to board will prove vital.

Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State, 7 p.m.: The Cowboys were able to easily beat Oklahoma with a mortal 11 points from James Anderson. OSU got quality production out of Keiton Page, who went for 24 points and Obi Muonelo’s 15. The Cowboys also made 11 3s. Oklahoma State was one of three teams to win at Kansas State during the season. So the Cowboys go into this game with a lot of confidence. The more intriguing storyline will be how K-State handles its role as a favored player in the field. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente are coming off a disappointing home loss to Iowa State. There has to be some pride in play to get going on a high note heading into next week.

Texas vs. Baylor, 9:30 p.m.: This may be the best game of the quarterfinals. It pits two teams that when they play to their potential could be playing in the championship game Saturday night, or, at the very least, the second weekend in the NCAA tournament. Damion James went back to being an all-American in the win over Iowa State in the first round with a 28-point, 16-rebound performance. The Longhorns got key play from Gary Johnson, Avery Bradley and Jai Lucas. J’Covan Brown only played three minutes as Justin Mason got the start at the point. The best news for Texas was the high percentage of shooting from Dexter Pittman, finishing 7-of-9 with five boards. Baylor crushed Texas last Saturday 92-77. The key will be whether LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter can get free against the Longhorns, and who wins the tussles inside between Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy and Texas' Pittman and Johnson. This should be an up-and-down affair at the Sprint Center.
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Naismith Award nominees down to 30

February, 24, 2010
The Atlanta Tipoff Club, which awards the Naismith each year, has narrowed its preseason list of 50 "watch" players down to the much more manageable 30 -- what it calls its midseason candidates list, even if, on Feb. 24, the whole "midseason" thing is a bit of a misnomer. But that's beside the point. The point is that we have 30 players to mull over now. True, most of the list won't even crack consideration for the final player of the year award, which is almost certainly going to go to Ohio State's Evan Turner or Kentucky's John Wall. But the tally is fun to look at anyway.

One minor quibble: The list of 30 manages to include six ACC players -- just one behind the Big East's leading seven -- without including Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney, who happens to be leading the conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game for a 21-5 Tech team that's overcome its horrid nonconference schedule to (probably) play its way into the NCAA tournament. Nothing against Al-Farouq Aminu or Gani Lawal or Sylven Landesberg or Trevor Booker but it's hard to see how you could include those four and leave Delaney off the sheet.

Anyway, the full list is after the jump. Other quibbles? Let's hear 'em in the comments.

(Read full post)

Aldrich tops Academic All-America team

February, 23, 2010
Junior center Cole Aldrich of No. 1-ranked Kansas headlines the 2009-10 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America men’s basketball team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Aldrich was selected as the Academic All-America of the Year in the University Division.

A two-year starter for the Jayhawks, Aldrich is one of only three players in the Big 12 Conference averaging double figures in scoring and rebounding.

The Morning After: Kansas gets muddy

February, 16, 2010
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best hoops action. Try not to make it awkward.

[+] EnlargeCole Aldrich
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty ImagesCole Aldrich had at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for the sixth time this season.
No. 1 Kansas 59, No. 23 Texas A&M 54: There's a common belief that if teams want to win NCAA titles, they have to learn how to win ugly in the tournament. This is not always true: 2008-09's champs, the North Carolina Tar Heels, were never forced to win ugly in March or April; Tyler Hansbrough & Co. rolled through their six tourney games like they were playing in the Maui Invitational rather than the NCAA tourney. Wouldn't you rather dominate? It keeps things simple. Still, though, it can't hurt a dominant team to get punched in the mouth from time to time, to face a rowdy away crowd on a night when the shots aren't falling and to come away with a victory in a hard-fought, low-scoring slugfest. That's what the Jayhawks did last night.

On a night when Sherron Collins scored a mere seven points and committed five turnovers -- and a night when Kansas hit only one 3-pointer in 10 attempts -- Cole Aldrich was the key. Big surprise, right? Aldrich had 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and countless other altered shots in the interior. The Aggies, meanwhile, completely shut down in the last few minutes of the game -- Donald Sloan disappeared, as did the Aggies' offensive rebounds and free throws, while Kansas was able to get to the line at a high (56.5 percent FTR) rate.

After the game, Bill Self said his team won "muddy," and that's about as good an adjective as you can use for what we saw from both teams last night. It was muddy. Self wouldn't want them to wallow in it, but maybe it's good for the Jayhawks to get a little mud on their shoes from time to time.

Connecticut 84, No. 3 Villanova 75: Can someone please explain the Connecticut Huskies? (Wait, that's kind of my job? Oh, right.) Actually, Andy's explanation last night is as good as any: The Huskies pretty clearly have talent, they've just not always played up to it. This team has Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson in its backcourt, a hyperathletic threesome that should compete with anybody in the country. It also helps that UConn played much the same Monday night as they played in a close loss at Syracuse last week: Walker and Dyson used their strength to get in the lane, refusing to force outside jumpers. The Huskies flew around on their own defensive end, using their one main advantage -- a proficiency at blocking shots -- frequently. And UConn got to the line. They got to the line a lot. Jim Calhoun's team shot 44 free throws to Villanova's 20, a product mostly of athleticism and Villanova's inability to stop anyone on defense.

Oh, and make no mistake: Villanova can't stop anyone on defense. The Wildcats are one of the country's best offenses, but their defensive efficiency numbers aren't pretty: Nova doesn't turn opponents over and doesn't force them into particularly bad shots, which is why they have the No. 66-ranked defense in the country and aren't in Pomeroy's top 10 despite the high level of respect afforded to them nationally. Nova is a good team with flaws, and a suddenly organized and viable UConn team exposed nearly every one of them.
If you watched last night's Texas-Kansas game (the game I'd been looking forward to for months and the game that didn't live up one bit to that hype, which has made me sort of sad for about 12 hours now) you no doubt saw Brady Morningstar's weird technical foul shot. Shooting in place of the fouled-out Cole Aldrich, Morningstar lifted with the ball, attempted to shoot, lost his handle, juggled the ball in his hands, and then caught it quickly and shot it again. That shot didn't go in, and Brent Musberger, Bob Knight, and pretty much everyone else who watched the shot were confused. Um, Brady? What on Earth just happened?

Brady Morningstar has a simple explanation: The ball was wet, guys.

"The ball was wet. It slipped on the way up. I was so confused. I could have caught it and came down with it, but I’d have stepped on the line. I tried to shoot a little jump shot so I didn’t cross the line," Morningstar said.

"I looked pretty stupid there," he added. "We laughed about it in the locker room just now."

Eh, don't stress it, Brady. All in all, avoiding the line and getting the shot up at all constituted a pretty impressive bit of acrobatics, and it's not like the shot mattered anyway. It's amusing, but it's not important. That's what happens when you blow out a slumping Texas team in their own building -- you can screw up your free throws and laugh about it later.

(Hat tip: The Dagger)

Afternoon Linkage: Get ready

February, 8, 2010
  • First things first: As you'll see if you scroll down the page, we'll be live-chatting throughout the Big Monday action tonight. Come join us, submit your comments, read along, and have fun with us. It's going to be a great night. I can't wait.
  • Tonight's a big night, and you already know why. Everyone's been waiting for Kansas-Texas for months -- this date has been circled on everybody's calendars since the schedule came out. And now that it's finally here, ready for us to bathe in its glory ... the Longhorns go and lose four out of their last six, including an ugly loss to a 13-9 Oklahoma team on Saturday. Bummer, right? If you're upset about these big-game-killing losses, rest assured you're nothing like most Texas fans, who are trying to figure out the proper balance between restraint and criticism, especially of Texas coach Rick Barnes. Rather than Big 12 bragging rights, that might be tonight's biggest subplot: Can Barnes win and salvage his season? Does he even need to?
  • Meanwhile, Kansas fans are nearly as upset with Texas as Texas is. The gents at Rock Chalk Talk find the Longhorns' freefall "frustrating," because "you want to beat the best of the rest to be the best." Their diagnosis? "You can bring in all of the glamorous high school recruits from around the country that you want, but as a coach, you have to a) teach them to play team defense, and b) play as a cohesive unit offensively, not just to 'get theirs' and shoot when they want. A team with that much talent just shouldn't be struggling the way they are." Ah, nothing like a gentle tweak from a confident opponent's fans on game day. See what I mean? This game might not be as important as it once was, but it will still be plenty awesome.
  • After a bit of a slide in which it appeared Kansas forgot how good Cole Aldrich was at putting the ball in the basket on the offensive end, the Kansas center has been playing like the All-American you grew to love in 2009. Aldrich's averages in his last four games? 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game. That's almost worthy of a Cole Aldrich Line Watch. Why the sudden rebirth? Aldrich says his grandmother's peaceful passing after months of painful hospice care has freed him to get back to thinking about basketball full time.
  • In a season in which West Virginia students have sworn at opposing players, dropped the name "Karen Sypher" to Rick Pitino, and thrown bottles, food and loose change onto the court during play, what do they have in store for their Big Monday date with Villanova? Tuxedos, of course! "There are rumors that the students attending Monday's game not only will be on their best behavior, but that the male students may be adorned in tuxedos and the female students in cocktail gowns." So that should be fun.
  • Don't worry about West Virginia's "lack of a true point guard." The Mountaineers seem to be doing just fine, thanks.
  • A rowdy fan section isn't the only reason tonight's game is going to be a tough test for Villanova. The Wildcats have to recover from Saturday's ugly loss to Georgetown in two days, and they have to do so with a second consecutive trip to their opponents' home haven. Given how poorly they played at the defensive end Saturday, this is going to be an extremely difficult thing to do.
  • Jim Boeheim for coach of the year? That's the argument our own Pat Forde made after his trip to Cincinnati to see Syracuse dismantle the Bearcats yesterday: "Now here's the shocking news: If Boeheim were to win such an award this year, it would be his first. The Big East has honored him three times, in 1984, '91 and 2000. Barring a jarring collapse, the league can go ahead and get the engraver working on a fourth. But the love has never traveled outside the Northeast. He's been a head coach since 1976. He's won 822 games, second among active coaches and sixth all time. He's won more Big East games (366) than anyone. He's won 20 games in a record 32 seasons, two more than Dean Smith. And he's won a national title and been to three Final Fours. Yet nobody has ever gotten around to handing him any hardware for the best coaching job in the country. In the past two decades they've given Coach of the Year to guys like Matt Doherty, Rod Barnes, Randy Ayres, Cliff Ellis and Bill Guthridge -- but never to Boeheim." That is pretty shocking, given the length of Boeheim's tenure and the success he's had nearly every year of that tenure. But it also makes sense. There are two problems with the way we decide coach of the year. The first is that we don't factor in recruiting. Why wouldn't the coach with the best talent deserve to be recognized for acquiring it? Isn't that part of coaching? The second problem is that the coach of the year award typically goes to the coach whose team most exceeds the media's preseason expectations. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Clearly we, the media, weren't wrong about this coach's level of talent. Of course not! Clearly he's just coaching them up through sheer tactical brilliance. Coach of the year! So if Boeheim's teams are expected to be good, and they're usually good, then it's no wonder he's never won an award for his performance. But Pat's right. He should.
  • In other ESPN-related linkage, here's Monday's Weekly Watch, featuring Texas A&M, Tre'Von Willis, and a whole bunch of other notables.
  • Evan Turner Line Watch: Turner's line Sunday? 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a cruise-controlled home win over Iowa. One time, I'd like to be in Evan Turner's brain when he takes the court against Penn State or Iowa or Indiana or even, like, Minnesota. I wonder what goes through his head. It's got to be exhilarating, right?
  • Roy Williams is dealing with serious self-esteem issues. A smattering of quotes from this interview with Yahoo! Sports' Jason King: "I just lay there and look at the ceiling," Williams said. "I’ll try to close my eyes and fall back asleep, but I can’t." “I haven’t done a good job with this team," he said. "As a coach, to say that … it’s hard. It really is." “I’ve always been very confident,” he said. “Other people can decide whether they think I’m cocky or not. Cocky is someone that looks down his nose at somebody else. I know I’ve never done that. But I’ve always been really confident in my ability to get guys to play together and to compete. This year has shaken my confidence a little. You start questioning your own worth to a team. You start wondering about your ability." Dude. Roy. Take it easy. You just won a national title. You're Roy Williams. You're one of the all-time greats, and all of the all-time greats have the occasional down year. It happens. How you handle it is the test of whether your program will quickly rebound, and not only do you have a good young base of talent in your program, you have the best recruit in the country (Harrison Barnes) landing in Chapel Hill later this summer. Stop kvetching and start coaching. You'll be fine.
  • Oh, also, Roy? Don't read things like this. Just keep coaching, man. You'll be OK.
  • Ernie Kent heard the "bye bye Er-nie" chant at the end of his Oregon Ducks' loss to Oregon State Saturday. This is never a good sign.
Remember: Live chat tonight. And as always, follow me on Twitter to send me links and tips.