Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

KU impresses UK’s Smith

March 19, 2007


— If Tubby Smith sounds like an expert : well, it's because he really is.

After Kentucky's basketball team was throttled, 88-76, by Kansas University on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats coach matter-of-factly called KU a national-title contender.

Listen to him. He knows.

With Sunday's game, the Wildcats have played three No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds at some point this season. Seven of the teams in the Sweet 16 have run into Kentucky, one reason the Wildcats had a disappointing 22-12 record this year.

Kansas, Smith said, has as good a shot at winning four more as anyone.

"There's not much of a dip," Smith said of KU's depth, "and there's not many teams we've played we can say that about."

The Wildcats were 1-9 against the Sweet 16 teams, splitting a pair with Tennessee and losing to Florida twice, Vanderbilt twice, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Memphis.

They were 21-3 against teams no longer in the championship hunt. Considering the wide disparity, it's almost fitting that Kentucky ended its run when it did Sunday in the United Center.

"We've got to improve. We're always looking to improve," Smith said. "We've got to bring in more talent, and that's something we're always looking to do."

The Wildcats certainly had inferior talent to the Jayhawks, which was widely known and only proven Sunday. Though Kentucky held a rebounding edge and had big games from Randolph Morris (22 points, eight boards) and Bobby Perry (21 points), the hot shooting of KU's guards made it an agonizing second half for the Wildcats.

KU-UK Panorama

A Panoramic Image from the Kansas-Kentucky basketball game. See the panorama >

Morris made just four field goals, but he almost single-handedly got three of KU's big men - Sasha Kaun, Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson - into foul trouble. Still, the KU depth Smith referred to made it almost a non-issue.

"I think I played pretty aggressive," said Morris, who hit 14 of 16 free throws. "I was trying to get the opposing team into foul trouble, and I was pretty successful in that. But we just couldn't seem to stop the open shots, and that's what killed us."

Kentucky has an uncertain immediate future ahead. Morris is prone to jump to the NBA, while regulars Perry and Sheray Thomas are seniors.

In addition, speculation regarding Smith's job security continues. The tradition-rich Wildcats haven't reached the Final Four since 1998, Smith's first season and the last time they won the national title.

"We'll cross that bridge when that time comes," Smith said. "Right now, we'll just get through this, get back on campus and just evaluate everything."

Right before the next question was asked, Smith was more direct.

"I expect to be back, though," he said. "I'll put it that way."


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