No. 4/3 Kansas (26-4, 14-3) closes out the regular season at Baylor (17-13, 8-9) on Saturday, March 9, at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Heading into the final conference game of the season, Kansas and Kansas State are tied for the Big 12 lead at 14-3. KSU will play at Oklahoma State at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday. A Kansas win at Baylor would give KU its ninth-straight, 11th Big 12 and NCAA-leading 56th overall conference regular-season title.
In its last outing, Kansas won its 30th-straight home finale with a 79-42 win against Texas Tech, March 4. KU has the league's longest winning streak at seven games. Baylor is looking to end a two-game losing streak which includes a 79-70 loss at Texas on March 4.
Kansas, ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press and No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches' polls released March 4, is 17-1 at home, 7-2 in road games and 2-1 on neutral courts in 2012-13. In his 10th season at KU, Bill Self holds a 295-57 record for an 83.8 winning percentage. Overall, Self won his 500th career game with a 108-96 overtime win at Iowa State (2/25) and is 502-162 in his 20th season as a head coach. KU averages 75.2 points per game and is giving up 60.6 for a Big 12-leading +14.6 scoring margin. KU also leads the league in rebounding at 39.7, rebound margin at +6.8, field goal percentage at 47.6, field goal percentage defense at 35.1, which leads the nation, and blocked shots at 6.8.
Kansas starts four seniors, including three fifth-year seniors, and one freshman. Named to the Sporting News Mid-Season All-American team Jan. 15, redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore leads the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, which leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring and ranks second overall in the conference. Against West Virginia McLemore broke the Kansas freshman record for points in a game with 36. The Jan. 14 Big 12 Player of the Week and three-time conference Rookie of the Week, McLemore leads the league in free throw percentage (86.8) and is third in the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage (42.5).
McLemore, who is a USBWA Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year Award finalist, has a team-high 57 three-pointers made and is tied second on the team with 35 steals. All-America candidate senior center Jeff Withey, who on Feb. 25 was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for the second-straight week and third time in 2012-13, leads Kansas in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and has 12 double-doubles this season, including five in his last seven games. Withey leads the league in blocked shots at 4.0 per game, which ranks third nationally. Withey is Kansas' and the Big 12's all-time blocked shots leader with 285. A USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Midseason, Wooden Award Mid-Season and Naismith Award Top-30 list honoree along with McLemore, Withey is scoring 13.8 points per outing.
Senior guard Travis Releford leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 59.1 percent. The Nov. 26 Big 12 Player of the Week, Releford is scoring 12.2 points per contest. Senior guard Elijah Johnson is coming off a career-high 12 assists against Texas Tech (3/4). Named Big 12 Player of the Week March 4, Johnson had a career night at Iowa State (2/25) where he scored 39 points. He has a team-high 147 assists and is second on the team with 45 three-pointers made to complement his 10.2 scoring average. Senior forward Kevin Young rounds out the KU starters; he is scoring 7.9 points per contest and is second on the team with 6.9 rebounds per outing. Young scored his 1,000th career point against West Virginia (3/2) between Loyola-Marymount (658) and Kansas (360).
Located in Waco, Texas, with an enrollment of 15,364, Baylor is 17-13 on the season and 8-9 in Big 12 play after its 79-70 loss at Texas on March 4. The Bears are coached by Scott Drew who is 174-137 in his 10th season at BU and 194-148 in his 11th season overall. Baylor averages 74.3 points and gives up 66.0 for a +8.3 scoring margin. Baylor is ranked third in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 44.9 percent including 34.7 percent from three-point range. BU averages 7.1 three-pointers and 6.7 steals per game.
Senior guard Pierre Jackson, the 2013 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, leads Baylor in scoring at 19.1 points per game, which is also tops in the conference. Jackson has made a team-high 73 three-pointers and also leads BU with 187 assists, 136 free throws made and is second on the team with 44 steals. Freshman center Isaiah Austin is next in scoring at 13.7 points per game and he leads the team lead with an 8.9 rebound average, which is second in the Big 12. His 43 blocked shots in 2012-13 are second most on the squad.
Junior forward Cory Jefferson is second on the BU squad with an 8.4 rebound average and he leads Baylor with 59 blocked shots. Jefferson is scoring 11.7 points per game in 2012-13. Junior guard Brady Heslip has made 67 three-pointers and scores 8.7 points per contest. Senior guard A.J. Walton rounds out the BU starters; he leads the team with 52 steals, scores 7.1 points per outing and is second on the team with 105 assists.
Kansas leads the series with Baylor 19-3, including an 8-1 record in Waco, Texas. This series dates back to 1951 with Kansas winning the first six meetings. Since the inception of the Big 12, KU holds a 17-3 record against BU and has won four of the last five meetings. Baylor's last two wins in the series were in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship: 71-64 in the 2009 quarterfinals in Oklahoma City and 81-72 in the 2012 semifinals in Kansas City.
Earlier this season, Kansas defeated Baylor 61-44 on Jan. 14, in Allen Fieldhouse. KU redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore led all scorers with 17 points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Senior guard Elijah Johnson scored 12 points and senior guard Travis Releford added 10. KU led 33-20 at halftime and Baylor's 44 points were the fewest a KU team has allowed in a league game since KU held Nebraska to 39 points on 2-17-07 in Lawrence.
KANSAS TEAM NOTABLES
--Kansas leads the NCAA Division I in field goal percentage defense at 35.1 percent and is third nationally in blocked shots at 6.8 per game. Both stats lead the Big 12 and KU also leads the conference in scoring margin (+14.6), field goal percentage (47.6), rebounding (39.7) and rebound margin (+6.8). The Jayhawks also rank in the top four of the Big 12 in scoring (second, 75.2), free throw percentage (third, 72.7), rebound defense (third, 32.9), assists (third, 15.4), steals (third, 7.3), assist-to-turnover ratio (fourth, 1.1) and three-point field goals made (fourth, 5.9).
--Kansas has held a double-digit lead in all but six contests this season. KU has held the lead in all but one game in 2012-13.
--Out of its 30 games, Kansas has held 18 of its opponents to 60 points or less, including nine conference foes: 46 at Texas Tech, 44 vs. Baylor, 59 at Texas, 55 at Kansas State, 54 vs. Oklahoma, 56 at West Virginia, 47 vs. Texas, 48 vs. TCU and 42 vs. Texas Tech.
--KU has outrebounded 24 of 30 opponents this season, including 20 of its last 24 foes. After its 36-22 rebound advantage against TCU (2/23), KU has had seven games with 10-plus rebounds over its opponent. Kansas' 50 rebounds at Oklahoma State (2/20) were a season high and its +22 against Texas Tech (3/4) was its widest margin of 2012-13.
--KU has out shot all but four opponents in 2012-13. Additionally, KU has shot 50 percent or better in 12 games this season. Kansas has shot 53.3 percent or better in each of its last three games.
--In its last six games, Kansas is holding opponents to 31.2 percent shooting and is giving up just 18.5 field goals per game in that span.
--Kansas has held a 40-plus point lead in four different games this season.
--Kansas has had four players score in double figures in 10 times this season, including five against Iowa State (1/9).
--Senior center Jeff Withey has five double-doubles in his last seven games. His 12 DDs are second most in the Big 12. In his last seven games, Withey is averaging 16.6 points and 10.0 rebounds.
--In his last two games, Withey is averaging 18.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 6.5 blocks and is 15-for-17 (88.2 percent) from the field.
Kansas is shooting 54.9 percent from the field in its last three games: 37-for-68 at Iowa State (2/25), 34-for-60 vs. West Virginia (3/2) and 24-for-45 vs. Texas Tech (3/4). The Jayhawks have out shot all but four opponents in 2012-13 and have shot 50 percent or better from the field in 12 games. KU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 47.6 percent. Individually, senior G Travis Releford leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 59.1 and has shot 70 percent or better in 13 games, including six league contests. Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore shot 12-for-15 (80 percent) from the field against West Virginia (3/2) and has seven games of 60 percent or better shooting this season. He has shot 50 percent or better from three-point range in eight conference games, which includes a 5-for-6 (83.3 percent) effort against West Virginia (3/2).
Senior center Jeff Withey is 20-for-24 (83.3 percent) from the field in his last three games and has shot 50 percent or better in 24 of 30 games this season, including 14 games of 62.5 percent or better. Senior forward Kevin Young is 17-for-22 (77.3 percent) in his last four games and has 13 games of shooting 60.0 percent or better, including eight in conference play. Senior guard Elijah Johnson was 6-for-10 from three-point range at Iowa State (2/25) and 13-for-22 (59.1 percent) for the game. He has shot 51.6 percent (32-for-62) in his last six games and is shooting 40.0 percent for the season.
Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore logged his third 30-point game of the season with a KU freshman-record 36 points against West Virginia (3/2). Senior guard Elijah Johnson became the second Jayhawk to record 30 or more points this season with his 39 scored at Iowa State (2/25). This marks the second time in the Bill Self era at Kansas that two different players have scored 30 or more points in a game during the same season. Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry each had 30-point games during the 2009-10 season.
Here are some block party notables for Kansas All-American candidate Jeff Withey:
--Withey leads the Big 12 and is third nationally with 4.0 blocked shots per game. KU's record for single-season blocked shot average is 3.6 set by Withey in 2012.
--The 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Withey set the KU and Big 12 single-game record with 12 blocked shots versus San Jose State (11/26).
--Withey may have narrowly missed a triple double, but his nine-block performance against West Virginia was one only 16 performances of nine or more blocks in NCAA Division I this season, including three by Withey. He has twice swatted nine shots this season and his 12-block game against SJSU is tied with three others for best single game in the nation. Withey is one of only two players in the country with three games of nine or more blocks.
--A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week, including twice in 2012-13, Withey's 120 blocks in 2012-13 are more than six Big 12 teams this season and rank third on the KU single-season list.
--Earlier this season, Withey broke the Kansas and Big 12 Conference career blocked shots record, currently at 285. He passed Greg Ostertag who had 258 blocks at Kansas from 1992-95 and Chris Mihm of Texas' 264 from 1998-2000.
--For his career, Withey has had 11 games with seven or more blocked shots, including four in 2012-13.
--Withey broke the NCAA Tournament record for blocked shots with 31 in the 2012 event.
--Withey broke the Kansas and Big 12 single-season blocked shots record with 140 last year (3.6 per game). He is only the second Jayhawk to pass 100 blocked shots for a single season with his 140 last year and 104 this year. The other was Cole Aldrich with 125 in 2009-10.
Kansas guard Ben McLemore leads the Big 12 freshman class with a 16.5 scoring average, which is second overall in the conference. A three-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week and one-time Player of the Week honoree, McLemore leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage at 86.8 and also ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage (eighth, 50.2), rebounding (20th, 5.4), three-point field goal percentage (third, 42.5) and three-pointers made (seventh, 1.9).
KU's leading scorer, McLemore has eight games with 20 points or more this season, including three 30-point efforts: 36 vs. West Virginia (3/2), 33 vs. Iowa State (1/9) and 30 vs. Kansas State (2/11). He is the only freshman in KU history to have three 30-point games in one season. His 36 points against West Virginia (3/2) broke the Kansas freshman record of 35 points set by Danny Manning against Oklahoma State (3/2/1985).
Kansas freshman record-wise, McLemore's:
...16.5 ppg would surpass the KU freshman record of 14.6 ppg held by Danny Manning in 1985.
...5.4 rebound average would rank eighth on the KU freshman list.
...57 three-pointers made in 2012-13 are fourth on the KU freshman list.
...42.5 three-point field goal percentage is fifth on the KU freshman list.
...86.8 free throw percentage is first on the Kansas freshman list.
KANSAS AND THE BIG 12 WEEKLY HONORS
Kansas senior guard Elijah Johnson (player) and redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore (rookie) swept the Big 12 weekly honors, named March 4. Johnson was the Big 12 Player of the Week after averaging 25.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the Kansas wins over Iowa State (108-96 in overtime) and West Virginia (91-65). Included was a career-high 39-point effort against Iowa State.
McLemore, who earned the Big 12 Rookie of the Week for the third time in 2012-13, averaged 21.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 66.7 percent from the field in the two victories. Included was a KU freshman scoring record of 36 points against WVU.
Kansas senior center Jeff Withey was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week Feb. 25 for the second consecutive week and third time this season. He was also named Dec. 3. It was the fourth time in his career he has been named Big 12 Player of the Week.
Previously, McLemore was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Rookie of the Week (1/21) and the previous week (1/21), he was named the conference's player of the Week. Historically, McLemore is the first KU player since Tyshawn Taylor in 2008-09 to be named Big 12 Rookie of the Week three times in one season. Taylor accomplished the feat four times. Additionally, McLemore became only the second Jayhawk in the 17-year history of the Big 12 to have earned Big 12 Player and Rookie of the Week in the same season. Mario Chalmers also accomplished did the same during the 2005-06 season.
Historically, this is the second time, with both by Kansas, a school from the Big 12 Conference has had four different players named its Player of the Week during the same season. Besides Johnson, McLemore has earned player of the week once, senior center Jeff Withey three times and senior Travis Releford once in 2012-13. In 2011-12, Withey, Releford, Taylor and Thomas Robinson were named Big 12 Player of the Week during the season.
MCLEMORE AND WITHEY NAMED TO NATIONAL WATCH LISTS
On Feb. 25, Kansas' Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey were named to Naismith Top 30 candidates. The duo was named to the USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Midseason Watch List on Jan. 31 and on Jan. 10 were selected to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 announced by The Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Naismith Award had three schools with two players listed (Kansas, Duke and Indiana). The Oscar Robertson award consisted of 12 players and Kansas and Indiana were the only schools with multiple players listed with two each. For the Wooden Award, Kansas is one of three schools to have two players among the 25, along with Duke and Missouri.
The 2013 Wooden Award Gala will take place April 11-13, 2013, at The Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Gala will honor the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners, All Americans and the Legends of Coaching Award winner, Kansas head coach Bill Self.
IN THE POLLS
Kansas is ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press and No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches' polls released March 4. Kansas' No. 1 ranking in the Jan. 28, 2013, coaches' poll was its first since Feb. 14, 2011, and KU has been the nation's top team 38 times, including 20 weeks in the Bill Self era. Also in the coaches' polls, Kansas has been ranked in each of the last 80 week, including 66 times in the Top 10. In the Associated Press poll and dating back to the final three polls of the 2008-09 season, this marks the 75th-straight poll in which the Jayhawks have been ranked in the AP poll, including 64 times in the Top 10.
The legacy the four senior players will leave at Kansas is quite impressive. Entering the final regular-season game of their careers, fifth-year Travis Releford has a 153-25 record for an 86.0 winning percentage when wearing the Crimson and Blue. Fourth-year seniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey have a 126-17 (88.1 percent) record, while senior transfer Kevin Young is at 58-11 (84.1 percent).
Releford has been a part of four Big 12 Conference regular-season titles, while Johnson and Withey three and Young one. Additionally, in the last four seasons, Kansas has won two Big 12 postseason championships (2010, 2011), advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight twice and one Final Four, including last year's run to the NCAA championship game in New Orleans. Combined these seniors are 16-4 in postseason play.
Kansas has won 12 of the 16 Big 12 regular-season titles (includes ties), including the last eight. Kansas' 55 conference titles are the most in NCAA Division I. Kentucky is second with 51 and Penn third at 37. Kansas' eight-straight league titles is the longest active streak in NCAA Division I and the longest streak in school history. Ohio State (Big Ten), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and Murray State (Ohio Valley) are next at three on the active league title list.
Kansas will participate in the Big 12 Championship, March 13-16, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Its first action will be in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 14, as it will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the event.