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Archive for Monday, December 7, 2009

Thanks to Self, KU reloaded better than UCLA

December 7, 2009, 12:00 a.m. Updated December 7, 2009, 9:08 a.m.

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Markieff Morris pushes KU past UCLA

KU sophomore forward Markieff Morris scored a career-high 19 points as KU topped UCLA, 73-61, on the road. Enlarge video

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— Eleven national championships. John Wooden. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bill Walton. Jackie Robinson. Gail Goodrich. Walt Hazzard. Keith Wilkes. Marques Johnson. Dave Myers. Richard Washington.

If those names don’t mean anything to today’s recruits, UCLA coach Ben Howland always can sell the fact he took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours (2006-08). Mix in that the school is located in a massive city rich with high school basketball talent, and it’s a given UCLA will field a nationally ranked team every year.

Right? Wrong.

There’s no such thing as a given in college basketball, not anywhere. Early exits to the NBA, key injuries and a recruiting miss here and there can add up to a perennial powerhouse slipping to 2-5 in early December, as UCLA has, including losses to Cal State Fullerton, Portland and Long Beach State.

It could happen to anyone, even Kansas University, which didn’t play its best game but didn’t need to in order to defeat UCLA, 73-61, Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.

Two years ago in San Antonio, Kansas and UCLA were two of the four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.

Kansas, despite having just one player (Sherron Collins) who played more than four minutes in the 45-minute national title game against Memphis, is back on top, ranked No. 1 in the nation. UCLA’s only victories have come against Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine.

Take it from Howland, the quick Kansas reloading job should not be taken for granted.

“It’s very impressive,” Howland said. “Collins is a very good player. He was part of that team. Obviously, (Cole) Aldrich was part of that, just a freshman a the time. I saw Cole coming out of high school. Compared to where he is now, he’s really developed well. He’s bigger, stronger. And these young kids they have are really good, especially the (Morris) twins. They’re really formidable. The kid (Thomas) Robinson, he played only a minute. Watching him on film, he’s a good player, and he played one minute.”

How has Kansas avoided the cliff that ate up UCLA’s chances of putting together another memorable March run? In a word, charm. KU’s coach and home court have it, UCLA’s coach and building don’t. In another word, loyalty. KU’s fan base has it. UCLA’s does not.

Bill Self, like Howland, is a tough taskmaster blessed with a keen basketball mind. Both men see all the mistakes and don’t let any go unpunished. Self’s also armed with a sense of humor to cut the tension and a natural charm that comes in handy in recruiting and in keeping players on his side. If Howland has that side to his personality, it’s not nearly as obvious.

Howland is hamstrung by a fickle fan base. The Bruins drew just 6,145 spectators for their season-opener and just 10,451 Sunday for the No. 1 team in the nation. A huge segment of the paying customers sported KU gear. UCLA fans are front-runners.

The Bruins’ homecourt is far more airy, not nearly as intimate, as the fieldhouse. It feels more like an NBA arena from a bygone era.

The chances of KU slipping under Self to the sort of season UCLA is having are remote. Still, it pays to remember just how remarkable a two-year reloading job the Kansas coaching staff has engineered.

Comments

TopJayhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

It's all Lews fault. go Lew go.

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kusp8 4 years, 4 months ago

Say it ain't so! Keegan writing an article complimentary of KU!? Somebody throw some cold water at me; I think I'm dreaming!

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Jim Williamson 4 years, 4 months ago

Larry Brown used to relate the story of losing in the 1980 NCAA championship game to Louisville. He did it with a team made up of almost exclusively freshmen and a few sophomores. He hadn't even left the arena yet but was already thinking about the next season and getting excited about his team and their chances to win it all. Then a UCLA booster walked up to him and said something like, "Congratulations, coach. You're the only UCLA head coach to lose a national championship game." Nice.

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Robert Rauktis 4 years, 4 months ago

"Pauley is a strange building, but with a lot of history. I was at the first game ever played there. The freshmen, who weren't able to play varsity ball back in 1965, beat the twice defending national champions."

The court placement allows asymentric end zones. I think a guy named Lew Alcinder (sp?) was on that team. Mike Warren went on to be Bobby Hill on "Hill Street Blues". Lucius Allen teamed with renowned Jayhawk rebounder, Pierre Russell at KC Wyandotte...where they wiped the floor of other Kansas teams. Probably would be NATIONAL hs champs in this age.

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onetime97 4 years, 4 months ago

Only people who haven't followed Bill's career should be surprised. Look at his previous coaching jobs, he didn't bring in the 1 and done athletes. He brings the kids right behind those 1 and dones who truly believe in the college basketball experience and could still go high in the NBA eventually.

John Wall is long mile ahead of X but Wall won't be back at Kentucky next year!

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Steven Gaudreau 4 years, 4 months ago

It's easy to be hard on the UCLA being ranked 187/347 in the Sagarin ratings. KU has had the softest schedule so far in the top 25 as well. The UCLA game should have been another blowout. KU needs to be playing better when they meet teams like Texas.

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Bill Lee 4 years, 4 months ago

Patterned after the old LA Sports Arena, Pauley is a strange building, but with a lot of history. I was at the first game ever played there. The freshmen, who weren't able to play varsity ball back in 1965, beat the twice defending national champions. UCLA didn't repeat as champs that season, but four of those freshmen and sophomore Mike Warren did the next season, and the next and the next (without Warren the third year). One of the freshmem I watched that first night was Lucius Allen from KC. I miss the hills of Westwood, but have found great basketball here, too.

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XEPCT 4 years, 4 months ago

True Keegan, but don't be so harsh on the Bruins; they aren't going to pull a Notre Dame, they'll be back.

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