KU not ranked -- yet

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Victories over No. 19-ranked Oklahoma and unrated Texas Tech weren't enough to propel Kansas University's red-hot men's basketball team into the Top 25 this week.

That's OK with coach Bill Self, who, though admitting he was a "little surprised" his Jayhawks (15-6) were tapped 27th in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, wasn't bothered by the snub.

"The thing is, if they are ranking teams based on how they played in recent time, we'd be ranked up there pretty high," Self said of the Jayhawks, winners of 12 of their last 14 games entering Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. game at Nebraska.

"There are not too many teams in America that have played better than us over the last seven to eight weeks. We are 12-2 against a pretty tough schedule over that period of time. But we got off to bad start (this year). The bad start certainly hurt us."

The Jayhawks, 6-2 in the Big 12 Conference, likely will be ranked next week if they can beat NU on the road and Iowa State at home Saturday.

"I think we are probably where we need to be, to be honest," said Self, whose Jayhawks are 10-2 since the return of Darnell Jackson, an extra big man who might have helped KU fare better than 5-4 in its first nine games.

"I don't know (about) giving this team too much ... not that being ranked is too much, but a bunch of young kids, they need to stay hungry. We'll have to have a great week in order to be ranked next week. We play two quality opponents."

It's about that time of year a ranking would be welcomed, considering NCAA Tournament bids and seeds will be awarded in a little over a month.

"I'd rather be ranked later than I would early," Self said. "Certainly right now we are playing about as well as anybody in the Top 25, with the exception of maybe the top eight or 10."

Rush's eye is fine: KU's Brandon Rush, who was poked in the right eye early in Sunday's 59-58 come-from-behind victory over the Sooners, is OK.

"He got his cornea scratched. He had some antibiotics, drops put in his eye by the time he left the facility, and he was doing much better today," Self said. "I can't see that being something that lingers at all."

Rookie honors: Rush on Monday was named Big 12 rookie of the week for the second time this season. Rush averaged 21 points and seven boards in victories over Tech and OU.

Wooldridge reaction: Like everybody in Big 12 country, KU coach Self is hoping K-State coach Jim Wooldridge has successful surgery Wednesday to remove a bulging disk in his neck.

"I didn't know Jim was struggling," Self said Monday on his Hawk Talk radio show. "Of course, it's a terrible time, but the most important thing for anybody in that situation is to get right. I'm sure it will go great. We talk about the big rivalry with K-State, they beat us and all that stuff, but you never wish any ill will on anybody. Certainly we wish he and his staff the best and the players hang tough through this."

Self on OU: Self was a popular man Sunday night and Monday after the Jayhawks erased a 16-point second-half deficit to trip OU.

"I had a few calls," Self said. "It was a great game. We were really bad during the first 32 minutes. We were overhyped and nervous. I think we played differently than the way we'd been playing the last month or so, and OU was really good. Our guys never quit. Our body language didn't get bad. They kept plugging and plugging, and we were able to win the game.

"The crowd was awesome. We didn't give the crowd anything to cheer about for a long time. We did a good job keeping the crowd out of the game. They didn't give up. They really got into it down the stretch."