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Archive for Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Woodling: KU slate tough after all

March 1, 2005

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Admit it. You weren't overwhelmed late last summer when the Kansas University men's basketball schedule was released.

Kentucky was one of the opponents, but none of the other KU foes really knocked your socks off. Vermont? Humph. South Carolina? North Carolina would have been better. Wisconsin-Milwaukee? Gimme a break. Pacific? Nice ocean. Nevada? Give us UNLV instead.

Ah, but now that March has arrived, we know the Jayhawks' schedule has been one of the strongest in the country. In fact, Kansas tops the chart in the latest ratings percentage indexes and is No. 1 in all the strength-of-schedule rankings.

Six of KU's opponents are ranked in this week's Associated Press Top 25, and another six are listed in the Others Receiving Votes category.

Here's a breakdown of the Jayhawks' six ranked opponents:

Kentucky (No. 3 in AP poll) -- Wildcats own 22-3 record, but looked like a 3-22 team when Kansas whipped them, 65-59, on Jan. 9 in Rupp Arena. 'Cats shot a frigid 31 percent and missed 20 of 26 three-point attempts. KU's defense was good, but UK missed a bunch of point-blankers. Maybe 'Cats were overconfident because Wayne Simien was out because of a thumb injury.

Oklahoma State (No. 8) -- These guys are good. Cowboys (20-5) certainly would have won Sunday's game in Allen Fieldhouse if not for a signature performance by Simien (career-high 32 points and 12 rebounds). KU won, 81-79, in the most memorable game in Lawrence in at least two years.

Pacific (No. 17) -- Tigers bowed to Kansas, 81-70, way back on Dec. 4 in Allen Fieldhouse. Ten days later, San Francisco invaded Stockton, Calif., and stole a 67-64 victory. Pac-Men haven't lost since. Pacific win streak stands at 19 going into Thursday's game at Cal State Fullerton. Six Tigers are averaging double-figure scoring, led by Chris Piper-lookalike Christian Maraker and the redoubtable Guillaume Yango.

Villanova (No. 19) -- No team has treated Kansas as harshly as the Wildcats, who buried the Jayhawks, 83-62, on a snowy January afternoon in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center. Curtis Sumpter and Allan Ray combined to make nine of 13 three-point attempts. 'Nova's record is a deceptive 19-6, with half the losses to ranked teams (Boston College, UConn and Syracuse).

Oklahoma (No. 20) -- Only Big 12 Conference team to defeat Kansas in regulation. Sooners built a 19-point lead, then Kansas climbed to within a point late before OU pulled away for a 71-63 triumph in the last couple of minutes. Sooners have reloaded after injury-plagued 2003-2004 season, but have had some hiccups on road.

Nevada (No. 25) -- Jayhawks limited Wolf Pack to 28 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers in an 85-52 rout exactly three months ago in Allen Fieldhouse. Nevada is no pushover, though, not with seven-footer Nick Fazekas averaging 21.3 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. Nevada has suffered only two defeats in 2005, each by three points.

Kansas' record against the six ranked teams is 4-2. The Jayhawks are 5-1 against Others Receiving Votes. The lone loss was that 80-79 double-overtime decision at Texas Tech.

Here are the other ORV schools and how Kansas fared against them:

Texas -- Wayne Simien made 11 of 17 shots in KU's 90-65 romp. Sound familiar? Simien also was 11-of-17 from the field Sunday against Oklahoma State.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- KU seemed to struggle in its first game with Simien out because of the thumb injury, winning 73-62 at Kemper Arena. But UW-Milwaukee, it turns out, wasn't stale beer. Panthers, 22-5, won Horizon League title and Ed McCants, who scored 26 points that night, was named league player of the year.

Georgia Tech -- KU posted stirring 70-68 overtime victory on New Year's Day in Allen Fieldhouse, and Yellow Jackets have played .500 ball (7-7) since. With practically everyone back from last year's NCAA Final Four team, Jackets have been disappointing, but remain dangerous.

Texas A&M -- Speaking of dangerous, A&M is the team nobody wants to have to play in the Big 12 Tournament. KU opened its conference schedule against the Aggies and posted a desultory 65-60 victory.

Vermont -- Kansas had been ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll, and there were grumblings when the Jayhawks barely beat the Catamounts, 68-61, in the season opener. But Vermont (21-6) went on to win the America East Conference crown and Taylor Coppenrath, who had 23 points that night, is among the nation's leading scorers at 24.7 ppg.

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