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Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

Keegan: Dickie V, Fraschilla impressed

February 23, 2006

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Fran Fraschilla had just arrived in Manhattan to analyze Wednesday night's ESPN telecast of the Kansas State-Texas game when he returned the phone call.

Dick Vitale was in Atlanta, preparing for the Duke-Georgia Tech game, when the call-waiting beep sounded in my ear as I was talking to Fraschilla. Vitale left a message with his thoughts on the Jayhawks, which were similar to his ESPN brother's.

"It's an amazing story," Vitale said. "What a turnaround. Think about that, won 10 in a row, probably playing for the regular-season championship of the Big 12 on Saturday. Would have never thought that earlier this year. Those kids have really matured, when you look at (Mario) Chalmers, Julian Wright, (Brandon) Rush. The three of them have been phenomenal. : And if (C.J.) Giles can give them that lift on a regular basis, blocking shots, it does add a dimension. I tell you what, if they can all stay together for next year, something special is brewing here, and they'll be preseason Top 10, definitely."

Fraschilla talked about this year, and he talked about more than Top 10.

"This is the kind of year, because of youth, Kansas could get to the Final Four or go out in the second round," Fraschilla said. "Neither would surprise me."

Both Fraschilla and Vitale agreed Bill Self is deserving of Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.

"I don't know about nationally, but definitely in the Big 12," Vitale said.

When things were grim for the Jayhawks, Fraschilla predicted KU would be a hot team come tourney time.

"I thought they'd be much better, but to say they would go on this run would be a little bit much," Fraschilla said. "I was really concerned about their guard play. What was a weakness is now a major strength."

And for that, Fraschilla credits the coach.

"Bill Self's my coach of the year in a league of good coaches," Fraschilla said. "The way he mixed and matched and figured out how to best utilize Chalmers and Russell Robinson was a great coaching move by Bill. You know he was searching because he was playing Stephen Vinson. It's not like he automatically knew he had the answer. He didn't push every right button right away. He pushed them enough and found them. That's good coaching."

Fraschilla said he considered Robinson to be "one of the five most improved players in the Big 12."

"He is rock solid," Fraschilla said. "Or, I should, say rock-chalk solid."

Can this guy recruit or what? He used to recruit players. Now he recruits viewers. He's never afraid to criticize, though. It's just that there isn't much to pick apart.

"Athletically, right now, there's nobody in the country they don't match up with," he said. "Every team in that top tier has its set of flaws. There are teams that can give Kansas trouble, but Kansas can turn around and give every team in the country trouble, including UConn and Duke. : Guys like Robinson, (Jeff) Hawkins and Chalmers, they're Venus flytraps. You're dribbling air, and the ball's going the other way."

KU is the talk of the national college basketball scene. A victory Saturday in Austin, where Vitale will be doing the color, would turn the buzz into a roar.

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