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Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Self not thrilled with break in action

February 2, 2006

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After playing - and winning - three games in six days, with two of those contests on the road, Kansas University's men's basketball players and coaches welcomed this week's relaxed schedule, right?

Not necessarily.

"I'm not real excited about a break now," KU coach Bill Self said.

His Jayhawks (14-6 overall, 5-2 Big 12 Conference) pounded Texas Tech, 86-52, Monday in Allen Fieldhouse. They won't play again until Sunday against Oklahoma. Tipoff is noon in Allen Fieldhouse.

"I'd rather be playing every other day," Self said. "But with four games in eight days after the OU game, we do need some rest right now, yet at the same time be focused and ready for next week, which is probably most pivotal to our season."

KU will travel Feb. 8 to Nebraska, play host to Iowa State on Feb. 11, then head to Oklahoma State for a Big Monday contest on Feb. 13.

"We played well last week. We've played really well the past five games," Self said of a loss at Missouri and victories over Nebraska, Texas A&M, Iowa State and Texas Tech.

The Jayhawks were tapped No. 58 in the country Wednesday in RPI ratings listed on the NCAA's official Web site - the NCAA will make available the official RPI ratings used by the tournament selection committee each week the rest of the season.

KU's players are exuding confidence, and not just because they are receiving votes in both polls and are just a half game behind Texas in the league standings.

The swagger is partly because of the way the team has been winning. In KU's current string of 11 victories in 13 games, the winning margins have been by 13, 20, 23, 17, 41, 27, 12, 42, 10, 10 and 34 points.

"One nervous thing : we haven't won a game in single digits this year. That's an unbelievable stat," Self said on this week's Hawk Talk radio show. "Every game we've lost (in last 13 games) has been by four points or less. We are close to having a remarkable record, but have not had the luxury of having close games come down to the wire.

"I think the jury is still out on where this team's mind-set is on finishing opponents. It's much different when you are up by six with three minutes left. I'm sure we'll get the opportunity in the near future to do that (try to win close game)."

The confident Jayhawks insist there's no chance they'll become overconfident heading into the OU game.

"We just focus on every game," sophomore guard Russell Robinson said. "Coach gets on us at practice a lot. It keeps us grounded."

"The coaches are staying on us, saying, 'Play hard. We haven't done anything yet,'" sophomore forward Darnell Jackson said. "It's a long road."

¢ RPI talk: Here are RPI ratings of Big 12 teams as listed on the NCAA's Web site: Texas 14, Oklahoma 28, Colorado 47, Kansas State 49, Iowa State 57, Kansas 58, Oklahoma State 82, Missouri 85, Nebraska 95, Texas A&M 107, Texas Tech 138 and Baylor 182.

Wichita State, by the way, has an impressive RPI of 26. The Shockers are coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon.

The Kansas women's team has an RPI rating of 91.

"The best way (for RPI) to get better is win games," Self said. "Instead of getting hung up on RPI, we should get hung up on conference play. If we finish strong in the conference, it'll bode well for us come Selection Sunday."

¢ In case you want to check: The weekly RPI ratings will be posted by 5 p.m. every Wednesday the rest of the season at ncaasports.com.

The official RPI is one of many tools used to select teams to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Developed in 1981, the RPI provides supplemental data in the evaluation of teams for at-large selection and seeding of the championship bracket.

Qualitative factors such as games missed by players and a team's performance in the latter portion of the season cannot be measured reliably by a statistical model, the NCAA reports on its Web site. However, such factors are among the details of each team considered by the committees. The men's tournament field will be announced March 12. The women's field will be announced March 13.

¢ Collins update: KU signee Sherron Collins exploded for 37 points with seven rebounds and five assists in Chicago Crane's 87-56 victory over Manley on Tuesday night. The 5-foot-11 Collins has helped Crane compile a 17-4 record, 7-2 in Public League games.

¢ Darnell's mother dies: Rose Valentine, mother of former Jayhawk great Darnell Valentine, died last week. Funeral services were held Wednesday in Wichita.

"I was never injured, and she's the reason, I think," Valentine told the Wichita Eagle. He averaged 8.7 points and 5.0 assists during nine NBA seasons with Portland, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Clippers. "She was built like a brick. And my legs were my legacy. People always ask me, 'Where did you get those big ol' legs? Did you work out? Did you run? Did you lift weights.' I said, 'No, man, it's all about the gene pool.'''

Valentine is director of player programs for the Portland Trail Blazers. His job is implementing the franchise's goal of overall player development by providing support on and off the court for every member of the team.

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