Big 12 Media Day Notes: Kansas Packs Sprint Center for Charity Game

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two days prior to Tuesday’s Big 12 media day, the Sprint Center hosted the Battle for Relief, a charity exhibition game that had Kansas and Missouri meeting on the court for the first time since 2012.

The game drew a sold-out crowd and raised $1.75 million. But hopes for a resumption of the Jayhawks-Tigers series in the regular season remains a non-starter with KU coach Bill Self.

“We’re going to do what’s best for us,” he said. “We’re not interested in doing what’s best for Missouri, or best for Missouri fans. But if it’s best for us to play them, we will. It’s not a complicated deal. I’m not going to say never. But I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes.”

When Missouri left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, it was an irrevocable divorce as far as Kansas was concerned. The school’s position echoes words spoken by Baylor women’s coach in the same building during Big 12 women’s media day in 2011 when she was asked if the Lady Bears would play Texas A&M with the Aggies departing the league.

“If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is, ‘No!’”

Playing an exhibition game for charity, though, brought Kansas and Missouri together in an atmosphere that resembled an NCAA Tournament game.

“In warmups, you could just tell how much juice there was in the building,” Kansas senior guard Devonte’ Graham said.

The idea for charity games to help with hurricane relief funds was brought forward by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and approved by the NCAA. There are approximately 40 charity games that have either been played or scheduled.

Schools are allowed to play two exhibition games against lower division opponents before starting their regular-season schedule. The charity exhibitions have pitted Division I teams against each other.

“It was a good game for us, we played a team that’s a favorite in the MVC,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said of his team’s game with Missouri State. “We had to come to play. Both teams played everybody, second teams played against each other.”

Texas takes on Texas A&M in Houston Wednesday.

“A&M has one of the best front courts in the country and we’ve got three freshmen bigs who will have a baptism by fire,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “And, it’s an exhibition game, they don’t have to be so down if things don’t go their way.”

The recent sprouting of these charity exhibitions has also produced an idea to allow these events to be allowed going forward.

Self is serving a one-year term as NABC president this year and he was on the conference call with the NCAA that led to schools being allowed to play the “emergency” exhibitions.

“The NCAA said there was a window to do something good for others,” Self said. “The template is made for this to move forward so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby lightly tapped the brakes on the idea.

“We have settled on a number of games that are permissible under the rules and yet we’ve also encountered a proliferation of exempt contests,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “So what we thought was an absolute number on the number of games we were going to play has now morphed into something very with different than that.

“I haven’t heard any momentum for making (charity exhibitions) a permanent waiver of the rule. That would take a more substantial effort, and if that has started I haven’t heard it.”

If the NCAA does allow for Division I teams to stage exhibitions for charity, Self and Smart both have big ideas.

“I would like to see it get bigger,” Self said. “We did (Battle for Relief) with two weeks’ notice. What if we could get all levels of basketball, down to high school, to do one event for charity. That could be $50 million to $100 million, real money. That would be the dream.”

Smart noted that with so many Division I teams in the state of Texas that bringing together four or more teams at a neutral site would generate interest and donations.

“That would be neat to get teams playing each other that don’t normally see each other,” he said.

The specter of the FBI

Bowlsby commented on the Justice Department and the FBI probe into college basketball recruiting. Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans was fired because of his involvement with the federal investigation.

“Our basketball is impeccable and led by people of integrity,” he said.

Asked about how the Big 12 has handled it, Bowlsby said the conference and the NCAA has provided its typical pre-season guidance and advice and compliance issues.

“Even the schools’ roles have been somewhat unclear,” Bowlsby said. “This is new territory dealing with governmental agencies. We want to make sure compliance is on everybody’s minds. Beyond that, we wait … like everybody else.”

Bowlsby, chair of the football oversight rules committee, said that the FBI probe into basketball has also given him concern that similar issues might be “baked in” to football. “You don’t have to have too vivid an imagination to show up in other sports,” he said.

Shaw vs. Huggins

For the last half dozen years, Your Veteran Correspondent has heard Big 12 officiating coordinator Curtis Shaw explain how college basketball refs are being told to blow their whistles. The common theme of late has been freer offensive movement (less grabbing), legal screening, and reducing wrestling matches in the low post.

And when YVC watches games during the season, he sees defensive pass interference committed against cutters, illegal screens and bump, bump, bump … TWEET … when the first bump by either the offensive or defensive player should have been called.

“The rules committee says we want more possessions and more opportunities to score,” Shaw said. “So they’re going to limit the defensive ability to physically attack the basketball or a player.  (On the other hand) the Rules Committee is adamant that we’re not going to let the defense attack you on offense. We can’t let the offense get away with things like illegal screens and travels.

“There is no referee on the Rules Committee. We have no input into what they decide they want us to do. We just have to be the ones that enforce it.”

Of the 10 coaches to answer questions from the podium at Big 12 media day, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins was the only one to field a question about officiating. The Mountaineers’ penchant for pressing and body-to-body defense is well known. According to Shaw, players with the ball will need their personal space.

“I think the only thing that is a little bit alarming to me is we act like there’s never going to be any contact,” Huggins said. “The players are too big. They’re too strong. They’re too fast and the court is too small for there not to be any contact. So there is going to be contact.”

The pushme pullyou between how coaches coach their players and how referees blow their whistles has become an annual issue. It appears we’ll be in for more of the same this season.

Fast breaks

  • To fill the hole in his staff created by Evans’ dismissal, new Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton reached into the school’s history and this week hired Scott Sutton as an assistant coach. Sutton was fired by Oral Roberts last April. In 18 seasons, the oldest son of former Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton, won 328 games in 18 seasons at the Tulsa-based school.
  • With Texas and Texas A&M facing off in an exhibition game, there might be momentum for the Longhorns and the Aggies agreeing to a regular-season non-conference game. The cold war between the schools over the football series is not as insurmountable as playing hoops. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said Tuesday the schools are discussing a non-conference series that could start as early as next year.
  • All five players on the preseason team are seniors – West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, Texas Tech’s Zach Smith, TCU’s Vladimir Brodziansky, Oklahoma State’s Jeffrey Carroll and Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham. “I would say that’s odd (in this day and age),” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if it will play out to be that way because I think we have some really good young players in our league but most of those preseason polls that are done, you know, people vote on what they know.”

Trash talk

Texas coach Shaka Smart on freshman point guard Matt Coleman and junior forward Dylan Osetkowski being good passers and how that helps a team that struggled to shoot the ball last season:

“Old saying in basketball that passers make shooters. I think we’ll be a much-improved shooting team. We better be. We’ve been shooting better in practice but as everybody knows that has to carry over to games.”

Kansas coach Bill Self was asked how concerned he was about his team’s depth with just eight scholarship players available:

“A lot. Depth is certainly a concern. Eight is plenty as long as you’re healthy, but whenever injuries start occurring or peak guys start wearing down it’s a concern.”

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was decked a bow tie, yellow vest and saddle oxfords in school colors and he was asked if he might wear that outfit during a game this season:

“Absolutely not.”