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South Regional notes: Wiggins brothers get to catch up

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 20, 2014, at 10:08 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 21, 2014, at 7:21 a.m.

ST. LOUIS — There was plenty of familiarity in the Scottrade Center locker rooms Thursday. Between the Kansas and Wichita State practices, the Wiggins brothers met in the Shockers’ locker room.

Although their teams will play in the same arena today, the only way the Wiggins brothers could face off in the NCAA Tournament is if both advance to the national championship game.

Kansas coach Bill Self said that’s probably a break for their parents, Mitchell and Marita.

“The fact that they’re playing each other (in St. Louis) will probably be better for them,” Self said. “It would be something that everybody in our state would probably think was a dream matchup. For the family, it probably played out perfectly.”

Oh, and KU and K-State were assigned the same locker room. The Jayhawks get it for the first session; the Wildcats, the second.

Looking for his shot – Last year about this time, Kansas freshman Conner Frankamp won a three-point shooting contest during the Final Four weekend in Atlanta. A North High senior, he made 22 of 25 threes in the final round.

That must seem like a distant memory for the City League’s career scoring leader. Frankamp is 11 of 39 (28.2 percent) from beyond the arc for the season and 3 of 15 in his last eight games.

Reasons abound. Lost confidence. Can’t get into rhythm with inconsistent playing time (averaging 7.3 minutes in 25 games).

Whatever it is, Frankamp said Thursday he has only one plan for fixing his shot.

“I’m trying to spend more time in the gym to work on fundamentals,” he said. “I’m trying to shoot with more arch. I’ll get it.”

No help – Kurtis Townsend knows a few things about the Bluegrass State. He played at Western Kentucky and was an assistant at Eastern Kentucky.

But the Jayhawks can’t tap into his knowledge of Eastern Kentucky, their opponent Friday. His time with the Colonels was one season 15 years ago.

“I can tell ’em where the restaurants are on the 31 bypass,” Townsend said, “but that’s about it.”

No love for Mizzou – As far as KU coach Bill Self is concerned, it will take an NCAA Tournament matchup for the Jayhawks to step on the court with the Missouri Tigers again.

He’s still ticked MU bolted the Big 12 for the SEC, ending their hot regular-season rivarly.

“I never said that Kansas will never play Missouri,” Self added. “I said it probably won’t happen while I’m there. But I’m not going to be there forever, so there wil be somebody there that can make that decision long after I’m gone.”

Familiar foes – Seeing each other down the sideline will present a different view for New Mexico coach Craig Neal and Stanford counterpart Johnny Dawkins. The two played against each other in the ACC when Neal was at Georgia Tech and Dawkins played for Duke; both also played in the NBA.

This will be the first time they have coached against each other – Neal is in his first season at New Mexico or anywhere, and Dawkins is in his sixth year at Stanford, his only stop.

“That is a long time ago,” Dawkins said of his mid-1980s battles with Neal and the Yellow Jackets. “What I remember about Craig, he is a free spirit on the court. You could tell he loved the game. He played it with joy.”

Neal set the ACC single-season assist record in 1988 but lost it two years ago to North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall.

“Ever since he lost the assist record to Kendall Marshall a couple years ago, he doesn’t talk about his glory days anymore,” New Mexico senior Kendall Williams said.

Big jump – New Mexico senior Cameron Bairstow, a 6-foot-9 forward from Australia, is one of college basketball’s most improved players. In amping up his low-post game, Bairstow has gone from averaging 9.7 points last season to 20.3 this year. It is the second straight year he has made a hearty leap – he averaged 3.7 as a sophomore.

Bairstow’s field-goal percentage jumped from 45 to 55 percent.

“I haven’t seen any players at his size that are any better than he is,” Dawkins said.

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