Kansas softball to face Wichita St. in last Non Conference Game

Originally posted on Kansan.com on March 25th, 2014. Ran in Kansan in March 26th, 2014 issue.

Kansas softball (24-10) ends its eight-game road span with a game against in-state opponent Wichita State (18-11) today, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. in Wichita. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series with the Shockers 69-17.

Kansas is coming off of a win against eighth ranked Kentucky going into the matchup.  Another motivator for Kansas against the Shockers is that for the third straight week a Kansas player has been honored by the Big 12 conference. This week, freshman catcher Harli Ridling was named Big 12 Player of the Week for her efforts. She led the team with a .480 batting average on 12 hits, half of which went for extra bases. She hit four home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs.

Wichita State has won its last three games and five of their past seven. They also have recorded 34 stolen bases on 41 attempts. The Shockers’ star slugger freshman utility Paige Luellen has a .411 batting average and has cranked out eight doubles, one triple and six home runs this season, along with 32 RBIs and 22 runs scored.

The matchup between Kansas and Wichita State is the last non-conference contest for the Jayhawks before opening conference play against Oklahoma State this weekend at home in Arrocha Ballpark.

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Brew: One-and-dones may not be ready for NBA

Originally posted on Kansan.com March 23rd, 2014. Ran in Kansan March 24th, 2014.

Hotly contested at this year’s NCAA Tournament is the “one-and-done” trend. According to NCAA and NBA rules, athletes must complete one year of college before they enlist in the NBA Draft. This rule was implemented in 2006.

Before that, several NBA greats have came directly out of high school before the rule was instituted. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Tyson Chandler all declared for the NBA right out of high school, but that’s the cream of the crop.

But since then, the 1991-1992 Michigan team, which included the one-and-dones, started to fall to the experienced teams. The 1991-1992 Michigan team consisted of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King. Four of the team members were McDonald’s All-Americans out of high school. Although the team advanced to the national championship game, it fell to the experienced team from Duke, led by senior Christian Laettner, sophomore Grant Hill and junior Bobby Hurley. Duke only had one freshman on the roster that year and it delivered a beating to Michigan with the final score 71-51.

This season, many of the highly prospected early round draft picks, such as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, have put on shows for college basketball fans against other young teams, but come tournament time when they are to face more experienced teams, they become flabbergasted.

In the Round of 64, No. 3 Duke faced off against No. 14 Mercer. Mercer started five seniors while Duke started a senior, three sophomores and a freshman. Duke, predicted by most to win, fell short, even though a junior guard came off the bench to assist the Blue Devils.

In the Round of 32, No. 2 Kansas took on No. 10 Stanford. Freshmen Wiggins scored four points, freshman Wayne Selden Jr. scored two points and freshman Frank Mason scored two points. The majority of the points came from an experienced senior, Tarik Black.

Charles Barkley, an NBA great, spoke out after the Kansas-Stanford game, saying he believed that players to the likes of Wiggins and Parker should stay another year in college.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has also spoken about the one-and-done trend. “It’s not even so much about lottery busts,” Cuban said. “It’s about kids’ lives that we’re ruining. Even if you’re a first-round pick and you have three years of guaranteed money — or two years now of guaranteed money — then what?

Because if you’re a bust and it turns out you just can’t play in the NBA, your ‘Rocks for Jocks’ one year of schooling isn’t going to get you real far. I just don’t think it takes into consideration the kids enough. Obviously, I think there’s significant benefit for the NBA. It’s not my decision to make, but that’s my opinion on it.”

With all the negative press about one-and-dones, there have been several NBA players who have thrived in the NBA after just one year of college. Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden and DeMarcus Cousins are some of those, just to name a few.

Jayhawks shutout double header home opener

Originally ran in March 12, 2014 edition of Kansan.

The two wins today over South Dakota State (5-14) in Kansas’ (17-7) home opener made it three straight shut outs and six straight wins for the Jayhawks.

Both games of the double header resulted in the same score of 8-0. Sophomore infielder Chaley Brickey had the team high of six RBI for the two contests. She also accounted for five hits, one of which being a home run. The home run marked her fourth in five games.

Also leading the pack for the Jayhawks was senior outfielder Taylor Hatfield. Hatfield connected on all three of her at-bats in the first game and had three total RBI in the two games.

Pitching in the first game for Kansas was sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler (10-5). She accounted for 10 strikeouts in the contest and allowed no runs for her third straight game.

On the mound during the second game was junior pitcher Alicia Pille (6-2). She had five strikeouts and only allowed two hits.

Next up for the Jayhawks is the Jayhawk Invitational on March 14-16.

Kansas’ home opener rescheduled for today

Originally ran in the Kansan on March 11th, 2014.

Today is the last time the Kansas Jayhawks have their home opener at Arrocha Ballpark. Seasons after this will take place at Rock Chalk Park, due to open later this year.

Kansas (15-7) has a doubleheader against South Dakota State (5-12) today, with first pitches scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits are coming off of a two-day invitational tournament in Evansville, Ind., with games against Evansville and Murray State. They lost both games.

Last week, coach Megan Smith scheduled the doubleheader against the Jackrabbits to offset two games earlier in the season that were cancelled due to weather.

Fans attending the games today will receive a 2014 team poster and a schedule magnet.

Following today’s contests, next up for Kansas is the Jayhawk Invitational, March 14-16. First pitch is Thursday 3:30 against Northern Illinois. The game was originally scheduled as Kansas’ home opener.

Kansas softball gears up for South Florida’s Under Armour Classic

Originally posted on Kansan.com on March 5th, 2014. Ran in Kansan on March 6th, 2014.

Kansas (11-6) is on the road once more before they host its home opener next week. This weekend, Kansas heads to Tampa, Fla., to partake in South Florida’s Under Armour Classic.

First up for Kansas is Northwestern (11-4) on Friday. The last time the Jayhawks and the Wildcats met was in 2009 at the Kajikawa Classic. Kansas won the high scoring affair 8-7. Unlike Kansas, Northwestern has met several ranked opponents this season. Northwestern has played Stanford, LSU, South Alabama, Washington, Baylor and defending national champions Oklahoma. All four of their losses come from ranked opponents (Stanford, LSU, Oklahoma and Baylor). Northwestern is just outside of the top 25, sitting 29th in the country.

In the second game of the tournament, Kansas faces host team South Florida (16-5).  The last time the Bulls and the Jayhawks played each other was in 1999 at the South Florida Gladstone Tournament. South Florida won the game 2-0.  South Florida has also played ranked opponents. They’ve played against Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Louisiana-Lafayette and Stanford. Like Northwestern, South Florida also sits just outside the top 25; South Florida would be ranked 30th nationally.

On the second day of competition, Kansas faces St. John’s (5-9). Kansas and St. John’s haven’t played one another in at least the past ten years. Before taking on Kansas, St. John’s plays the Dutch National Team in an exhibition game. The Dutch are the defending European Champions.

Following the St. John’s matchup, Kansas takes on Utah (7-5). The Utes and the Jayhawks last faced off in 2004, with the Jayhawks winning the game 2-1. The Utes will be coming off of a short rest period, due to their home opener tournament drawing to a close on Wednesday.

Kansas plays one game on the third day of competition. Kansas faces LIU Brooklyn (6-13). The Jayhawks were slated to play the Blackbirds in the first tournament of the season, but was rained out.

First pitch for Kansas takes place on Friday at 10:45 a.m. against Northwestern.

KU swimming breaks records records at Big 12 Championships

Originally posted on Kansan.com on March 2nd, 2014. Printed in Kansan on March 3rd, 2014.

This weekend was one for the record books. From the 800-yard free relay to sophomore Chelsie Miller’s performances, to senior Alison Lusk’s swim in the 200-yard breaststroke, to the team’s performance overall, the Kansas swimmers rewrote Jayhawk swimming history.

The team of senior Morgan Sharp, sophomore Haley Molden, Miller and freshman Allison Merecka smashed the five-year-old University all-time record of 7:13.86 when they clocked in at 7:11.99. The team finished in second place, beating Iowa State, the third place finisher by seven seconds (7:18.24).

“We achieved our goals…in the 800 free relay,” said coach Clark Campbell.

After the first day of competition, the Jayhawks were sitting in second place.

In the second day of the championships, Miller shattered the seven-year-old University all-time record in the 200-yard individual medley relay (2:00.21) in the prelims, touching the wall with a time of 1:58.98. Miller swam slightly slower in the finals (1:59.25) finishing third.

“Chelsie’s race was well put together,” Campbell said. “Every stroke within that race was strong. She struggles more with the 200 IM than the 400 IM, so for her to swim that time was impressive. She will now also be able to swim that race again at nationals, in addition to the 400 IM. I’m proud of her new-best time and new school record.”

The meet only got better for the Jayhawks. On the third day of competition, Miller gave Kansas something it had been waiting for since 1999: its first individual conference champion. Not only did she win the conference in the 400-yard IM, she bested her time from last year by seven seconds and broke another school record.

“It was a big night for Chelsie and for KU swimming,” said Campbell. “Her time was faster than what she swam at U.S. Nationals, which will just improve her seed for the NCAA Championships. She swam an awesome race and kicked off a really good night for us, probably one of the best nights we have had at the Big 12 Championships in recent history.”

As the day concluded, six different swimmers chalked up seven different place finishes, adding points to the Jayhawk total. Kansas recorded at least two top-eight finishes in every individual swimming event on the third day of competition.

“Tonight was the most scoring swims we have ever had in a session at the Big 12 Championships,” Campbell said. “You get the opportunity to do that by swimming very well in the morning. We had a really good morning swim and got a bunch of lanes for finals and put a lot of points on the board.”

With the solid performances by the Jayhawks through the meet, Kansas was sitting in second place, only behind Texas with one day of competition to go.

The final day of competition brought another record breaking performance from the Jayhawks, this time from Lusk. She set the school’s all-time record in the 200-yard breaststroke earlier in the season, but re-broke it with a fourth place finish in the event. Lusk wasn’t the only one walking away with an award.

Both Miller and Campbell received meet honors. Miller was presented with Swimmer of the Meet and Campbell was voted Coach of the Meet. The team had a reason to celebrate, as well. With the swims from everyone on the team, Kansas clinched second place.

“I’m happy for our whole team, especially the seniors and returners, because we started the process of setting and achieving this goal a year ago,” said Campbell. “It sets the bar higher. We want to keep going the direction we are going. A lot of this is more than just competitive excellence. We wanted to change the culture of the program and we are on the way to doing that. Now we can say we are a top-two team in a major conference.”

Next up for the Jayhawks are the NCAA Championships that takes place March 20 through 22 in Minneapolis, Minn.

KU softball snaps win streak in Tennessee

Originally posted on Kansan.com on March 2nd, 2014. Printed in Kansan on March 3rd, 2014.

The Jayhawks (11-6) had nothing but hard fought battles this weekend in Chattanooga, Tenn. Kansas won their first three contests, extending their winning streak to five, but fell in their last game against Murray State.
In the first game of the Coach B Classic, Kansas took on Southern Illinois (6-7). Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler (7-3) posted eight strikeouts in the shutout, not allowing a single run in the contest. This was Kessler’s second straight shutout of the season.

On the offensive side of things, sophomore infielder Chaley Brickey slammed her second home run of the season, added another hit and chalked up two RBI. Senior infielder Ashley Newman had two hits in the contest as well. Junior utility Maddie Stein also pulled in two RBI in the contest.

In the night game of the day, Kansas took on Murray State (8-7), the ball rarely left the infield until the seventh inning when Kansas loaded the bases and Newman cracked just enough of the bat to bring home a win.
“It was a good day, obviously if you can win two, it’s a great day,” said coach Megan Smith. “I think we still have some work to do offensively to capitalize… we’re getting runners on, we’re getting runners in scoring position, but we’re not executing every time. We need to do a better job with that. I think our pitching and defense was stellar, so I’m excited about two wins.”

Junior pitcher Alicia Pille and Kessler shared the mound. Pille recorded 10 strikeouts, while committing an error and allowing six hits and two runs. Kessler came in to relieve and recorded the win. Kessler added two strikeouts to Pille’s 10.

In the first game of the second day of the Classic, Kansas faced Miami (OH) (4-7). Pitching was Pille, senior Alex Jones and Kessler. Pille allowed three hits, two runs and committed two errors. Jones allowed two hits, while striking out two. Kessler came away with the win, allowing just one hit and threw six strikeouts.

At the plate, Newman connected three times on her four at bats, with one triple, adding a run for the Jayhawks. Freshman catcher Harli Ridling added two hits, one run and two RBI.

In the final game of the tournament, Kansas faced Murray State for the second time. In the previous matchup Kansas won 3-2. Murray State came out swinging, scoring three runs in the first inning. Kansas battled back in the second inning with two runs. The two RBIs came from junior infielder Chanin Naudin and freshman infielder Taylor McElhaney. The third and fourth innings remained scoreless for both teams, with Kansas trailing by one run. The fifth inning, Murray State crossed home, extending their lead 4-2. Kansas wasn’t going to let them get away that easy though. Stein smashed a two RBI home run, tying the game. Extra innings were needed, but Kansas couldn’t control a wild pitch where Murray State capitalized.

Kansas is back in action March 7 in the Under Armour Classic in Tampa, Fla.

Kansas swimmers excel outside of pool

Originally printed in the Kansan on February 27th, 2014.

The Kansas swimmers don’t just hit the water, they hit the books too. On Tuesday, the Big 12 Conference announced that nine Jayhawks earned first and second team Academic All-Big 12 honors for their hard work in both the pool and the classroom.

The Jayhawks being named to the first-team list are sophomore Laura Bilsborrow (Global and International Studies), senior Alyssa Golden (Community Health and Pre-Nursing), sophomore Bryce Hinde (Exercise Science), senior Malia Johnson (Psychology and Pre-Dental), junior Deanna Marks (Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration), and sophomore Chelsie Miller (Accounting).

The Jayhawks being honored with second team selection are senior Alison Lusk (Chemical Engineering), sophomore Haley Molden (Exercise Science), and senior Sara Snow (Exercise Science).

To be recognized, the Academic All-Big 12 team student-athletes must keep a 3.00 GPA or higher, whether it be cumulative or the previous two semesters. They must also have competed in 60 percent of the scheduled contests. Freshmen and transfer students aren’t eligible to be named to the team. The requirements are a little different. Seniors must have participated on the team for a minimum of two years and meet the grade criteria. The difference between first-team and second-team is GPA. Members of the first-team have maintained a 3.20 or better GPA, while second-team members hold anywhere from a 3.00 to a 3.19 GPA.

Currently, the swim team is in Austin, Texas competing in the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships. The meet takes place February 26-March 1.

Brew: Kansas’ conference streak outshines other teams accomplishments

Posted on Kansan.com on February 25th, 2014. Ran in University Daily Kansan on February 26th, 2014.

With the win against Oklahoma on Big Monday, Kansas clinched its 10th straight Big 12 conference championship. In the past 10 years, there have been more conference championships than losses at Allen Fieldhouse. Even though Kansas has asserted its “decade of dominance” over the past 10 years and is the birthplace of basketball, other programs around the nation have been dominant as well when it comes to basketball conference championships.
Currently, only four other teams come close to Kansas’ record. Those four teams aren’t from a power conference either. Belmont (Ohio Valley Conference), Bucknell (Patriot League), Harvard (Ivy League) and Long Beach State (Big West Conference) are the teams that currently have three straight conference titles in basketball. And it looks like the streak will be coming to an end for some of those teams. Belmont is tied for first in its conference. Bucknell is currently sitting four games back in its league. Long Beach State is seated third, but is one game behind UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.
No one will be catching Kansas for quite some time. Kansas is currently tied with the old streaks of Connecticut and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Connecticut (while in the Yankee Conference) had 10 consecutive titles in 1951-1960.
UNLV (Big West) also sat atop its conference for 10 seasons back in 1983-1992. In that time span, UNLV advanced to the Sweet Sixteen six times, the Elite Eight four times, the Final Four three times and was crowned NCAA champions in 1990.
Only two other teams have maintained conference dominance for longer. Gonzaga (West Coast) held 11 straight conference titles from 2001-2011. The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet Sixteen three times during that period, but didn’t advance any farther.
Before the days of Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), John Calipari (Kentucky), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Bill Self, there was a man who knew what it was like to win. John Wooden, “the Wizard of Westwood,” coached UCLA (while in the PAC-8 and PAC-10 conferences) to 13 straight conference championships from 1967-1979.  UCLA didn’t just dominate its conference, it dominated all of college basketball. The team made it to the Final Four all 13 seasons and won seven straight national championships.

In the span of 10 straight conference championships, Kansas has made it to the Sweet Sixteen six times, the Elite Eight four times, the Final Four twice and the championship game twice, winning the national championship in 2008 and being national runner-ups in 2012.
UCLA stacks up beyond comparison. Its presence in college basketball is unprecedented. It’s easier to compare to UNLV and Gonzaga. Kansas has the same amount of Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight appearances and national championships as UNLV during its conference championship reign. Where differences lie is that UNLV has been to the Final Four three times, with Kansas advancing twice. However, Kansas has two NCAA Championship game appearances during its reign, while UNLV only has one.

Comparing Kansas to Gonzaga, Kansas stacks up better. With Gonzaga not moving past the Sweet Sixteen and only making it that far three times, it’s easy to say that these Kansas teams are more dominant in the national scheme of things than the Gonzaga teams were.

Kansas swimming and diving hopes for success in Big 12 meet

Posted on Kansan.com February 25th, 2014. Ran in Kansan newspaper February 25th, 2014.

For some Kansas swimmers, this will be their last splash of the season. The Kansas swimming and diving team (7-5) heads to the Big 12 Conference Meet hosted by the University of Texas in Austin on Feb. 26. Unlike most sports, women’s swimming and diving isn’t represented at all schools in the conference. Schools fielding swimming and diving teams are Iowa State, Kansas, TCU, Texas, and West Virginia.

Texas has won 11 of the past 15 conference championships on the women’s side. The only other team winning the conference title in the past 14 years is Texas A&M, who has since switched to the SEC.

Kansas has faced just two conference opponents over the season, TCU and Iowa State, so the Jayhawks have some new competition. Kansas fell to both teams in dual meets over the season. However, Kansas has seen Iowa State twice, once in duals and once in the Kansas Classic. Kansas placed first in the Kansas Classic, with Iowa State finishing third.

The Jayhawks last competed three weeks ago in Ames when for their final dual of the season, they ended up losing, just getting edged out. “We will use this as motivation and swim better at the Big 12 Championships,” said coach Clark Campbell.

The conference meet spans over four days, starting with men’s 1M diving at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. The first women’s event is the 200 Medley Relay, starting at 6:00 p.m. that same day.