Good news for Kansas fans. Back in 1900-01 the Jayhawks, coached by Dr. James Naismith, lost to the Topeka YMCA twice but both times Kansas bounced back to win the following game. We mention this in response to Bill Self’s comment Wednesday night after the Jayhawks lost 62-55 at TCU. If this is the time of year you normally start following college basketball, think of it this way: The Horned Frogs essentially were a No. 16 seed knocking off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Self was so upset with his players he accused them of being the worst Kansas team to take the floor since those losses to the Topeka Y. The last time Self sent a Kansas team onto the floor with a two-game losing streak was 2006, so logic says someone has to pay the price. Will it be Oklahoma? The Jayhawks visit the Sooners in Norman Saturday. It may be worth watching.
Here are five games you don’t want to miss (all times ET):
No. 3 Michigan (21-2, 8-2 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (16-7, 7-3 Big Ten) (Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPN)
Michigan could move back into the No. 1 spot – if the Wolverines or anyone else want that top ranking – with a win at Wisconsin. It was impressive that Michigan could defeat Ohio State in overtime after that big loss to Indiana last Saturday night. But that was a home game. Now John Beilein’s team plays the first of two consecutive conference road games. Next up is the big in-state rivalry game at Michigan State. The Wolverines can’t afford to be looking ahead.
Wisconsin plays that grind-it-out style and the Badgers are so tough to beat in the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has been horrible from the free throw line, shooting around 62 percent, but the Badgers went 13-for-14 in two overtime periods and defeated Iowa 74-70 Wednesday night. Think about this: Wisconsin could pull even with Michigan in the conference standings with a victory. There’s never a dull moment in the Big Ten.
No. 11 Louisville (19-4, 7-3 Big East) at No. 25 Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4 Big East) (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN )
It has been a strange ride for both of these teams. Louisville rose to No. 1 in the polls by mid-January with just that one loss to Duke. The Cardinals didn’t survive one week at the top before losing three in a row – to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Now Louisville goes to South Bend on a three-game winning streak, trailing first-place Syracuse and Marquette by half a game in the Big East standings.
Point guard Peyton Siva will play a key role because the Cardinals want to get Notre Dame out of rhythm by speeding up the deliberate Irish. Mike Brey’s team lost at Syracuse Monday night, scoring just 47 points against the Orange. Notre Dame, 11th in the nation in field goal percentage, shot just 34.6 percent.
No. 15 New Mexico (20-3, 7-1 Mountain West) at UNLV (17-6, 4-4) (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
Thanks to a disastrous road trip that ended with losses to Boise State and Fresno State, UNLV finds itself in a must-win situation at home Saturday. The Rebels have fallen far short of expectations and now can only be described as a disappointment. Still, five of UNLV’s six losses have come on the road. The only loss at the Thomas and Mack Center was back on Nov. 23 when the Rebels were ranked No. 18 and unranked Oregon won 83-79. No disgrace in that really but with the conference’s top team coming for a visit, the Rebels need to make a statement.
|Alex Kirk of the Lobos|
New Mexico already owns a 65-60 win over UNLV from Jan. 9 in Albuquerque. UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett should be motivated to prove something after being held to 12 points and six rebounds by New Mexico’s Chad Adams. Alex Kirk, New Mexico’s 7-footer, was the star that night with 23 points and nine rebounds. In many ways this game is as important to New Mexico. The Lobos enter with a one-game lead over Colorado State in the MWC standings. New Mexico’s next two games are against Fresno State and Boise State.
No. 5 Kansas (19-3, 7-2 Big 12) at Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4 Big 12) (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Bill Self doesn’t hold back in his press conferences after losses. One week ago, Kansas had only one loss and now the Jayhawks have a two-game losing streak for the first time in seven seasons. Self has said his players are soft. He says he would like to put three players on the floor but the rules force him to use five. Point guard Elijah Johnson is shouldering most of the blame and the numbers don’t lie. In the last six games he is averaging 7.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.6 turnovers. He is shooting 25.4 percent overall and 25.0 percent from three-point range.
|Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson|
With the exception of freshman Ben McLemore, Kansas is not a jump-shooting team. The Jayhawks should come out against the Sooners and pound the ball inside to Jeff Withey. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger isn’t stupid though. He knows that will be the plan. The Sooners gave KU a tough game in Lawrence on Jan. 26 but Withey had 13 points, nine rebounds, three steals and four blocks in a 67-54 win. Back in 2006, the Jayhawks snapped their two-game losing streak with a 96-54 win over Nebraska. It will be very interesting to see how this group responds to Self’s criticism.
No. 1 Indiana (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) at No. 10 Ohio State (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
After that stunning loss to Illinois Thursday night, not only are the Hoosiers about to lose their No. 1 ranking again but they also find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. The Buckeyes are right behind, just one game out. Even though Ohio State lost in overtime at Michigan this week, it felt as if the Buckeyes won in many regards. They played tremendous defense as usual and had a much more balanced scoring attack. That takes pressure off Deshaun Thomas, who still had 17 points. But for once it didn’t seem that the Buckeyes were counting on Thomas to do everything.
|Tyler Griffey's wide open layup beat Indiana|
Indiana never should have let a 14-point lead get away at Illinois. The Hoosiers lost at the buzzer on a great inbounds play by the Illini that was downright embarrassing for Indiana. But the Hoosiers had only one field goal in the final 5:13. If Indiana doesn’t bring its best effort Sunday, the Hoosiers may find themselves with their own two-game losing streak.