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Archive for Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Self recalls Bucknell bummer

October 14, 2008

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Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self's new book, "At Home in the Phog," chronicles Self's journey to Lawrence and the Jayhawks' road to - and immediate aftermath of - the 2008 national championship.

In this, the second of three excerpts from the book, Self talks about the Jayhawks' first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Bucknell in 2005.

The book is available at the Journal-World (609 New Hampshire), online at ljworldstore.com, and at area stores like the KU Bookstore, Dillons, Borders and at ascendmediabooks.com.

In sports, people love it when a Goliath falls.

The role of David was played by 14th-seeded Bucknell, a school of 3,500 students in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bucknell had just five scholarship players. The Division I limit permitted eight more scholarships to be offered, but Bucknell stopped at five.

(Two years earlier under previous coach Roy Williams, the Jayhawks nearly lost to Utah State in the first round at the Ford Center, surviving 64-61.)

Perhaps it was fitting Self's latest life lesson came near a place where he had learned so many lessons before, just 15 miles away in his childhood hometown of Edmond.

"We didn't sleep that whole night," Bill's wife, Cindy, said. "I kept seeing it as breaking news on TV. It was on the whole night."

Oddly enough, Self sleeps better after losses because they're emotionally draining. Nothing keeps Self awake more than the smell of victory.

"I'm the one who doesn't sleep after losses," Cindy said. "I can sleep after wins. He's too wound up to sleep after we win."

Self's second season at Kansas had ended far too soon. In the eyes of Jayhawk fans, far too soon constitutes any moment before the national championship, or at least reaching the Final Four.

"I'd say my toughest challenge as a coach was probably at Kansas my second year," Self said. "That was the worst team we've had since we've been at Kansas. I say that, and yet we started out 20-1 that year and played the toughest schedule in the country. We were winning close games, but we weren't a 20-1 team. We won because Wayne Simien was playing great, Keith Langford was one of the best wings out there and Aaron Miles was a solid point guard.

"The guy who really gave us a chance to win games was (former walk-on) Christian Moody. He played great. He gave us a chance to win games, even though he wasn't the most talented guy. This allowed Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, and Darnell Jackson to come around slowly as freshmen.

"But then Keith hurt his ankle in the last regular-season game at Missouri."

Langford, the team's second-leading scorer at 14.4 points that season, didn't play in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City and hadn't practiced for 12 days.

The day before the Bucknell contest, CBS analyst Seth Davis said if Langford didn't practice, he wouldn't play the following night.

"I was kind of upset about that," Langford said that day. "I wake up this morning and turn the TV on and see CBS say I'm not playing. My family members are calling and saying that in the paper back home I'm not playing. I haven't heard anything about it. The doctors are still saying 'questionable,' but if you ask me, I'm playing."

Langford also was battling flu-like symptoms.

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