Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

Woodling: KU men can take advantage of ‘Feeble Five’ on schedule

January 28, 2005


Once upon a time, pundits jocularly labeled Big Eight Conference football as Oklahoma and the Seven Dwarfs. But that was more than four decades ago.

Today, the Big 12 Conference, the enhanced-revenue offspring of the Big Eight, doesn't have a single school that dominates like OU did in football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

However, if you divide the Big 12 into its geographic divisions, you could call the north division of men's basketball -- at this stage, anyway -- Kansas and the Feeble Five.

Five teams have winning league records, and Kansas is the only one of those five located north of Eskimo Joe's, the jumpin' little juke joint in Stillwater, Okla.

Not that anyone at Kansas is complaining. Thanks to the way the schedule is drawn up, the Jayhawks will get to play Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri twice apiece, while the sizzling southern schools only have one crack at the Feeble Five.

Curiously, if it weren't for Kansas, Big 12 men's basketball would resemble last fall's conference football season when the north failed to produce a single powerhouse and Colorado won the division title with a paltry 4-4 record.

No 'Nova Rollova: Four days after waxing Kansas, 83-62, Villanova returned to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia and struggled to knock off Notre Dame, 65-60. The Wildcats trailed 37-30 at halftime and 52-46 with 11:46 left.

"We never panicked when we were down," Villanova guard Mike Nardi said. "Beating a team like Kansas might have seemed like such a big upset, but this win is even more special because it came right after such a big victory."

Allan Ray, one of the most underrated guards in the country, led the 'Cats with 23 points after dropping a 27-point anvil on the Jayhawks.

Hawk's Hot Rock: In a historical sense, it would be wise to take KU reserve guard Jeff Hawkins' astonishing 5-for-5 three-point shooting at Baylor with a grain of salt.

Hawkins had five three-pointers in a game at TCU last season, then made only five treys during the remainder of the season. In fact, Hawkins suffered a dreadful 5-for-41 (12.2 percent) spell after he lit up the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Texas.

Miles Dials 333-3333: Perhaps more surprising than Hawkins' one-game splash has been Aaron Miles' season-long consistency from beyond the arc. A career 28.6 percent three-point shooter going into his senior year, Miles has made 18 of 34 treys this season. That's 52.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Keith Langford, regarded as the better long-range shooter of the two seniors, also has 18 three-pointers, but with 17 more attempts than Miles.

Deceptive Doghouse: Does Bill Self really have a doghouse? That may be too strong a term because with such a deep bench Self can afford to go with who's hot and sit who's not, making it look like he has a canine corner.

Right now, freshman Russell Robinson is feeling the chill, primarily because of turnovers. Robinson is averaging one turnover every 7.5 minutes. No other Jayhawk is giving the ball away that often.

If you're wondering, the Jayhawks' best ball protector is Langford. The senior southpaw surrenders the rock only about once every 16 minutes.

Bruce Almighty: As far as I'm concerned, they can award Big 12 Freshman of the Year to Baylor guard Aaron Bruce right now. The young Australian plays instinctively and with emotion.

He can shoot, too. Bruce is averaging 16.6 points a game and leads the league in free-throw shooting percentage (.889). On the flip side, the Bears play so much zone defense it's difficult to determine how good he is on that end.

The Taj Mahal: Oklahoma's Taj Gray seems to have a lock on Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. The 6-foot-9 Wichita East product, who spent the last two years at Redlands Junior College in El Rino, Okla., is averaging nearly 15 points and eight rebounds a game for the resurgent Sooners. Gary looked like Superman against Oklahoma State.

Seats Available: With Allen Fieldhouse full for every game, folks around here take sellouts for granted. Yet SRO signs aren't all that common around the Big 12. Kansas, for instance, has had 10 sellouts so far and the rest of the league has had just eight packed houses combined.

X-ed Out: Don't tune in to ESPN on Monday night expecting to watch the Kansas-Missouri basketball game at the usual Big Monday time. You'll have missed it by two hours. ESPN changed the KU-MU tipoff to 6 p.m. so it could televise the Winter X Games from Aspen, Colo., at 8 p.m.

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