Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:21 pm

Top of the Big 12 poised for a down year

By Jeff Borzello

So these are the Big 12 favorites, eh? Kansas and Baylor?

If so, the conference might be worse shape than thought heading into the season.

Kansas competed with Kentucky admirably for a half, but the talent gap between the two teams was just eye opening. It’s one of the main reasons the Jayhawks were overrated in the preseason, but the disparity between the two rosters was even bigger than originally thought. Jeff Withey played fairly well, and Bill Self had his guys playing with energy. However, outside of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks really couldn’t compete in the second half. Robinson went up against double- and triple-teams the entire game, and simply didn’t have anyone to take the pressure off of him besides Taylor. The Jayhawks will get better as the season goes on, but they’re certainly not a Sweet 16-caliber team right now.

Baylor beat San Diego State by 10 on Tuesday, but I’m still not sold on the Bears’ point guard play and ability to make smart decisions when it counts. They turned the ball over 21 times. Pierre Jackson gives them a better chance to win than A.J. Walton, but is he the answer? California transfer Gary Franklin becomes eligible at the semester break, but he’s not a pure point guard. Right now, chemistry isn’t an issue. Anthony Jones, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller are all getting starter’s minutes, but what will happen once Perry Jones III returns from suspension and J’Mison Morgan gets back from injury. Baylor is supremely talented and could hang with anyone if it gets consistent point guard play and plays within itself. That remains to be seen, though.

Texas A&M could be a candidate to win the league, especially once Khris Middleton returns. But are the Aggies an Elite Eight or Final Four threat? Unlikely. They’re a really solid team. But I’m not sure they’re explosive enough.

Missouri looks OK so far, but the Tigers have no inside depth and far too inconsistent away from home.

Texas can clearly put up points, as evidenced by the 100 it dropped on Rhode Island on Tuesday. Defense is a huge concern, however, as is consistent frontcourt production.

There might not be an Elite Eight-caliber team in this group. As Mike Miller of NBCSports.com pointed out, a 12-6 conference record might win the Big 12. It will make for good theater during February, but that won’t mean the winner will be a threat to make a deep run in March.

The best hope for a title contender from the conference is Baylor. It’s hard to trust the Bears, though.

We could be headed for a (very) down year in the Big 12.

Photo: AP

Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:02 am

UK shows potential for greatness in win over KU

By Gary Parrish

NEW YORK -- They turned a game that was tied at halftime into a blowout, had five players score in double figures and introduced the nation to a freshman class that just might be gifted enough to win Kentucky an eighth national championship. And John Calipari was pissed.

"We're playing like it's an AAU game," Calipari said.

And he went on and on from there.

"I kind of expected what happened in the first half -- bunch of young guys out there doing their own thing," Calipari added, and he didn't sound like a man who had just watched his second-ranked Wildcats cruise to a 75-65 win over 12th-ranked Kansas. "I've got a bunch of young players."

Indeed he does.

Just like he usually does.

But here's betting Calipari wouldn't trade them for almost anybody.

Roy Williams might have a better roster at North Carolina, but that's probably where the conversation begins and ends. Yes, this country has more conventional teams and more experienced teams, but there aren't many teams more talented than Coach Cal's Wilidcats, and they showed that in spurts here at Madison Square Garden on a Tuesday night that began with people celebrating Mike Krzyzewski's 903rd career victory and ended with folks spilling into these midtown Manhattan streets mumbling to themselves about whether Anthony Davis is human.

Because he didn't seem human against Kansas.

The 6-foot-10 freshman finished with 14 points, six rebounds and seven blocks.

He looked like a future top overall pick of the NBA Draft.

And yet Davis still showed his youth at times -- as did the Wildcats in general. They weren't perfect and they aren't perfect, but the potential for greatness is there. With every long jumper made and shot swatted into the stands, it was easy to see the potential for greatness is there.

"This team has a chance of being special if they choose," Calipari said. "But they’ve got to come together.”
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 3:30 pm

The Poll Attacks

By Gary Parrish

NEW YORK -- I'm in Manhattan for Tuesday night's Champions Classic.

But I've still got time for the Poll Attacks.

Here we go ...

Associated Press poll: The first thing I did when the AP poll was released was go straight to Scott Wolf's ballot because the Los Angeles Daily News writer was the focus of the preseason Poll Attacks, and I wanted to see if he learned anything over the past few weeks.

He did not.

Scott still has Kansas ranked third and ahead of North Carolina even though Bill Self called him "nuts" for doing it, and he still has Arizona ranked sixth even though the Wildcats have lost an exhibition and looked average in their first three games, and even though Josiah Turner has been wildly immature and ineffective. Sean Miller actually benched the freshman point guard for Sunday's game against Ball State. And yet Scott still has this team ranked sixth -- one spot ahead of Ohio State and six spots ahead of Syracuse.

It's senseless.

I tried to help him.

But I just can't get through.

Maybe next week.

Another wild ballot belongs to The State's Ron Morris.

He has Michigan State ranked sixth and Vanderbilt ranked eighth and, my God, that's inexplicable. I mean, nobody loves Tom Izzo more than me -- he's my traveling buddy, remember -- and I still believe in Vanderbilt despite Sunday's loss. But Izzo's team is young and probably not even one of the nation's top 20 teams right now, and Vanderbilt's loss to Cleveland State has to be considered. Neither school should be anywhere close to the top 10 right now. That's why Jeff Goodman and I have Vanderbilt ranked 19th and Michigan State unranked.

Another school we have unranked: UCLA.

But Ron has the Bruins ranked 18th.

I'll explain why that's silly in the coaches poll section of the Poll Attacks.

Coaches poll: Last week was the first week of the regular season, and I realize the 31 men who vote in the coaches poll were busy. Hell, I was busy. But I wasn't too busy to realize UCLA lost a home game to unranked Loyola-Marymount.

That's why the Bruins are no longer in the CBSSports.com Top 25 (and one).

Makes sense, right?

What makes no sense is that UCLA still got 10 points in the coaches poll.

Maybe, just maybe, putting the Bruins on a ballot could be justified if they lost at the buzzer to a quality and underrated team. But that's not what happened Friday night in Los Angeles. UCLA never led in the second half and fans started leaving with five minutes remaining. The final score was 69-58. And hurting UCLA's cause even more is the fact that Loyola-Marymount backed its big win with a 58-51 loss to Middle Tennessee State, meaning the team that beat UCLA by 11 on Friday lost to MTSU by seven on Sunday.

And yet the Bruins still got 10 points.

That speaks to the brand of UCLA.

Or, more likely, how silly some coach (or two) -- plus Ron Morris -- is somewhere.

Posted on: November 9, 2011 4:39 pm

What's going on in Lawrence, Kansas???

By Jeff Goodman

There's no logical explanation.

Bill Self is regarded as one of the elite recruiters in the country and Kansas is obviously a program that is soaked in tradition.

Self is as likable as just about any coach in the nation and is a fixture on the recruiting trail - whether it's during the season or in the July recruiting period.

Kansas has just about everything to offer a kid - exposure, Phog Allen Fieldhouse and all the bells and whistles that many top-tier recruits yearn for nowadays.

So, why are the Jayhawks struggling mightily to land big-time players?

There is clearly playing time available in Lawrence these days, yet Self and his staff haven't been able to secure any of the big boys.

Sure, they got Perry Ellis.

But he's no program changer - and he's a local kid that may have gone there no matter who was in charge.

Oh yeah, they also got an unranked power forward named Zach Peters.

Kansas is hardly intimidating on paper this season and next year it could be even worse. Tyshawn Taylor will be gone - and Thomas Robinson could well explore the NBA route if has the season many (including me) expect.

The Jayhawks recently swung and missed on 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, their top target in the Class of 2012. Assistant coach Joe Dooley put in more work with the New Hampshire native than anyone else - but they lost out to Arizona.

More on recruiting
They've also struggled to secure a big-time guard - which is a necessity with the departure of Taylor. Marcus Smart went with Oklahoma State in a package deal with Phil Forte and J-Mychal Reese also paired up, with his father to Texas A&M. Kansas missed on Danuel House, who is headed to Houston, and Ioannis Papapetrou went with Texas over the Jayhawks.

There's still the top-ranked player in the Class of 2012, Shabazz Muhammad, but I'm not sure anyone - even Self - thinks Kansas has any chance over UCLA and Kentucky.

Maybe it's time to re-evaluate Self as one of the elite-level recruiters in the nation.

Or maybe this is just one of those years where all the stars aligned in a way that went against the Jayhawks.

Whatever the case, it's baffling. There's no clear explanation for what's gone on in Lawrence lately, but that wealth and excess of talent that was found at Kansas a couple of years ago?

Those days are gone. At least for now.

Instead, it can be found in other places - like Lexington, Tucson and Chapel Hill.

Photo: Getty Images 
Posted on: October 30, 2011 7:59 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:18 am

Self suspends Taylor and Johnson for exhibitions

By Gary Parrish

Kansas coach Bill Self announced Sunday night that he has suspended Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson for the Jayhawks' two exhibition games because they violated team rules this past offseason.

"Tyshawn and Elijah have both been terrific since school began in August," Self said. “They’ve not only performed well, they have been very responsible and disciplined the first few months of the school year. But during the offseason they violated a rule that I told them, because of some past experiences, their punishment was going to be severe and I was going to hold them out of the two exhibition games. They have been aware of this for several months and also are disappointed but have had very positive attitudes about it."

The suspensions of Taylor and Johnson -- both of whom were also suspended for violating team rules last season -- means Kansas will have just five scholarship players available for Tuesday's exhibition against Pittsburg State if Thomas Robinson, a CBSSports.com First Team Preseason All-American, is unable to play because of a hyperextended knee. Self said Sunday that Robinson is "questionable" for the exhibition. The 6-foot-9 forward was injured in practice last week.

"Losing two players and Thomas being questionable for Tuesday’s game probably changes the look of our team as much as anyone in the country," Self said. "This gives a chance for our young guys to play under the lights and see how they react."

Kansas is ranked 14th in the CBSSports.com Preseason Top 25 (and one).
Posted on: October 28, 2011 7:26 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 1:12 pm

The Poll Attacks

By Gary Parrish

There are lots of ways to get in the Eye On College Basketball Blog. You can break a story. Or write something tremendous. But the easiest way is to submit a stupid AP ballot. Scott Wolf from the Los Angeles Daily News is proof.

(It's time to Poll Attack!)

---- Associated Press Preseason Poll Attacks -----

Let me put this simply: Scott Wolf is either joking or dumb.

There's no in between.

Because there's no rational argument to be made for anybody other than North Carolina (or maybe Kentucky) being ranked No. 1 this preseason, and that's just the first of many odd decisions on Wolf's ballot. He has Connecticut No. 1. I like the Huskies. They're talented. But they can't be ranked No. 1 ahead of an experienced and super-talented North Carolina team right now. That's silly. And Kansas at No. 3? Seriously? Kansas might not finish in the top three of the Big 12, and Bill Self is on record stating this team has more question marks than just about any team he's ever coached. Thomas Robinson should be great, and Tyshawn Taylor is solid. But four of the top five scorers from last season are gone, and half of the recruiting class didn't qualify. And yet Scott still has Kansas ranked third -- one spot ahead of North Carolina.

(Note: I texted Self, told him one voter had his team ranked ahead of North Carolina and asked for his thoughts on said voter. "He's nuts," Self replied, and that sums it up pretty well.)

Yes, Scott Wolf has the Tar Heels ranked fourth overall and one spot behind KU. It's nutty and absurd -- even more so than having Connecticut first. How can a team with four possible All-Americans and seven possible pros be ranked fourth? And how can Arizona be ranked sixth? Derrick Williams doesn't play for the the Wildcats anymore, you know? (That's why they were only picked third in the Pac-12's official preseason poll.)

Honestly, the whole thing is a mess from top to bottom.

You can look at it here.

Might be the worst ballot I've ever seen.

And let me be clear: I don't mind ballots that are different because this stuff is subjective, especially in October. But voters ought to be able to defend their choices with some sort of intelligent argument, and there's no way to defend this ballot with an intelligent argument ... unless, of course, the Morris Twins, Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Nick Collison are all back on KU's campus, and Self and I just haven't realized it yet.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:32 pm

Self finds his team situation he never imagined

By Jeff Goodman

Bill Self looked in a team photo from a couple years ago. How times have changed.

That was when he redshirted Mario Little and Travis Releford because there was such an excess of talent and depth that neither figured to earn enough time. Now the sixth and seventh men in the rotation are walk-ons Justin Wesley and Connor Teahan - who Self has given a scholarship. If Little were still here, he'd probably be getting 35 minutes a game.

Self understands that no one feels bad for the Jayhawks - and he doesn't want that, anyway. He still maintains he has two of the elite players in the nation at their respective positions in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor - and that his starting five will be able to stack up against anyone.

"We've got two pros," Self said. "Tyshawn's so good. The light has come on and the game's in slow motion for him. There aren't five better point guards."

"And there aren't five better big men than Thomas," he added. But the depth is another story. Kansas had three signees deemed ineligible to play this season: Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor (who have both remained on campus as partial qualifiers) and Braeden Anderson, who has since elected to attend Fresno.

The 6-foot-8 Wesley is a transfer from Lamar and Teahan is a fifth-year senior who hasn't exactly played meaningful minutes in his Jayhawks career. Both will likely be rotation guys.

"We need to stay healthy," Self said. "And be junkyard dogs."

And that's likely why he's being cautious with Robinson, who bumped knees in practice and will likely be held out for a couple of days.

"In practice, I've never had to worry about injuries," Self admitted.

The key to whether the Jayhawks can continue their Big 12 dominance will likely come down to the development of guards Elijah Johnson and Releford - and the health and production of 7-footer Jeff Withey. Self raved about Johnson - which is a change from his thoughts on the talented guard from a year ago - and also said that he'll need newcomers Kevin Young and Naadir Tharpe to give him quality minutes. "I like my guys," Self said. The issue, though, is whether he has enough of them.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 27, 2011 8:37 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 8:38 pm

KU's Robinson hyperextends knee in practice

By Gary Parrish

Kansas junior Thomas Robinson hypextended his left knee during Thursday's practice. The severity of the injury is unknown, but KU coach Bill Self said "hopefully" the 6-foot-9 forward will not miss any significant time.

"The results from the MRI were positive for Thomas," Self said. "He will take a couple of days off to let it calm down."

Robinson is a CBSSports.com First Team Preseason All-American.

He should be the star of the Jayhawks now that the Morris Twins are in the NBA.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com