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Friday, March 2, 2007

Mayer: Others as flawed as Kansas

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This Kansas University basketball team doesn't do this, and doesn't do that; its inconsistency can drive its coaches and fans nutty. But what these Jayhawks can do is win KU's third NCAA championship because most all the other alleged contenders are as unpredictable.

Defending champion Florida is floundering, but it did that last year before cruising to the title and walloping UCLA in embarrassing fashion in the finale. If you'll recall, KU beat the Gators earlier this season.

UCLA can go on a tear and rip people as Florida did in '06. But it, too, has vulnerabilities that this KU team can exploit if it regroups and somehow finally wins a tournament opener.

Wisconsin has had a nifty year, but can it really pose a title threat without the talented Brian Butch, once recruited by Kansas? He's out of action with a bad elbow. The Big Ten is not loaded, but it certainly has a worthy contender in Ohio State with massive monolith Greg Oden. KU doesn't have any single soul who can handle Oden one-on-one, but there are enough big guys to platoon if the other Buckeyes can be held reasonably in check and our guys avoid stupid fouls.

North Carolina? Coach Roy Williams has been considered a likely champion because of talented 12-man depth. But Old Roy's been finding that you still need to hit free throws to win big ones. The Tar Heels can be as erratic as KU even though Tyler Hansbrough is a wondrous Tasmanian Devil.

Roy sometimes pooh-poohed his teams' weaknesses at the foul line, got mad if it was mentioned. He got a nasty lesson in pragmatism when his '03 club fell, 81-78, to Syracuse in the title game and had a scummy 12-of-30 free-throw performance. Nick Collison went 3-10, Jeff Graves 2-7 and Keith Langford 5-10 - for 17 of the 18 misses. Four more points, KU wins. Free throws have been a Carolina problem, and that's a category where Kansas needs to sharpen up to justify a No. 1 or 2 seeding.

Audio clips

2006-07 March 1 KU weekly presser

A darkhorse for this year's meet because of its poise, steadiness and marvelous leadership by Acie Law is Texas A&M.; The TexAgs have size, depth and lots of other qualities. KU is blessed that it doesn't have to play Billy Gillispie's club again before the league tournament. This Aggie crew could be a deadly sleeper, but so can the Jayhawk gang.

You knew this year's KU team could be better than the '06 unit when it traded Christian Moody and Jeff Hawkins for Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins. Sure, these two went into the tank at Oklahoma, but they're for-real warriors who are not likely to do that badly again. You had to be happy for the junior trio of Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson. But sophomore Brandon Rush has to stop taking disappearing potion and at least come close to his hype. Forget the NBA, kid, and work on your ball-handling, penetration and leadership when it's tough. Think Acie Law.

KU broadcaster Chris Piper offered a perfect depiction of Rush when Brandon recently was having ball-handling problems: a play-finisher, no play-maker.

But whatever its flaws, this versatile KU crew can look around and see lots of warts and zits on the other teams slated to contend for the 2007 college trophy, and conclude it has as good a chance as anyone, win or lose against Texas.

KU wasn't top-ranked in '52; Kansas sprang a huge surprise to win in '88. Who dreamed undersized KU would ever make the finals in 1953? These '07 guys can go equally far if they gut up and ALL show up for crunch-time.

Comments

MarcoPolo 14 years, 9 months ago

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments made in this excellent article. Somebody has to win, why not us?

As Mayer says, there are no really top-flight power-house teams out there. Certainly, Ohio State is by far the weakest No. 1 ranked team (this late in the season) that I've ever seen. Perhaps UCLA is the very best team, who knows? But there is absolutely no reason that KU cannot make a deep run.

Let's begin by taking care of business Saturday to win the league title all by ourselves......

craigers 14 years, 9 months ago

I agree with this article mostly. I do think that if KU faced Ohio State that Oden wouldn't be so aggressive if Wright, Arthur, Kaun, and Jackson stuck it to him tough and blocked a couple of his shots. There is no dominate team this year and we are as good as the rest. Get em Hawks.

Brett Gaul 14 years, 9 months ago

I also think we could contain Oden, he travels every other time he gets the ball...

vmwskywalk 14 years, 9 months ago

Did you see Oden in the Wisconsin game? He was sucking wind through out the whole game. I think we could run him into the ground.

klineisanazi 14 years, 9 months ago

I agree with Mayer's point as far as it goes. Compared to the other "contenders", KU has the talent and the demonstrated ability to win it all. If this were college football and KU was matched with one of the top four or five teams on a neutral court, KU could very well win. And of course, if that were the case, KU would probably have a couple more national championships as well. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks have to win four games to get to the Final Four.
The gut check for these guys will come the first week of the tournament. I guarantee all they will hear after the Big 12 tournament will be questions about the first round losses. Just look at how ESPN milked it on College Game Day, and on the OU broadcast...some nice video highlights from the last two eary exits. They need to shut this crap down once and for all. And the only way to do that is to go out and win. The first round SHOULD be ok this year if they have a one or two seed. But the next round could be tough...Louisville, Creighton, Air Force (dont laugh...unless Bucknell brings a smile to your face), Villanova, Missouri State. Just check out a bracketoligist and get an idea of what teams the one or two seeds will likely face the second round. Yes, the Jayhawks have what it takes, and they have shown it. Except for the A&M game they played well against the name opponents. But they will have to be able to beat the "mid-major" type team to advance. That is what makes winning a title tough.

mlbowers 14 years, 9 months ago

mayer is dead on this time. our team is that good, that deep, that dangerous!!! this team is going to dominate saturday and send a message to all the naysayers.

rock chalk jayhawk...go ku!

kcmostwanted 14 years, 9 months ago

Notice that we tend to have lots of problems against veteran ball clubs.. but if the guys bring their A game we have just as much of a chance as anyone to win it all... And i agree that Nobody has a true advantage to win the Champ. Game... If anything, i think Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, and Memphis (don't forget them) probably have the most athletes and would be the hardest match-up for many teams...But that's just me cause i know that the tourny is full of suprises...i.e. UCONN last year (weren't they the favorite to win it all???)

actorman 14 years, 9 months ago

But it, too, has vulnerabilities that this KU team can exploit if it regroups and somehow finally wins a tournament opener.


It would be nice if Mayer didn't make this "joke" EVERY time he writes about this year's team.

Craig Lang 14 years, 9 months ago

With the exception of UCLA's run last year, the Pac-10 teams lately have been generally soft come tournament time. Remember the recent Stanford team that went undefeated in the regular season, only to be kicked out in the 2nd round? That's not atypical for this conference in the last 5-6 years, and this is why I feel that UCLA will not run as far as most think in the NCAA tournament this year.

Living in Pac-10 country, I constantly see low scoring games with poor officiating (calling every little touch a foul). Conference play in the Pac-10 teams always seems to soften teams who were strong in their non-conference schedules. When UCLA left the comfort of their conference schedule to play a statistically weaker West Virginia last month, the Bruins really struggled and ended up losing. UCLA will surely get a 1 seed, but I predict the Bruins falling out by the third round.

jaybate 14 years, 9 months ago

Unrelated to the Mayer story,

Anyone notice that Collins is now are best three pointer shooter based on shooting percentage? Was ANYONE expecting Collins to shoot 43% trifectation?

jaybate 14 years, 9 months ago

Oooops! Make the "our" best three point shooter. :-)

jaybate 14 years, 9 months ago

Bill, good story. But if you're going to recall the 1953 almost ringers, you ought to include Roy's four final four appearance teams in the almost category that surprised alot of people.

Chris Kurtz 14 years, 9 months ago

The point to this story that I think people should realize is that all of the top teams have games like KU did against Depaul, Tech, A&M etc, we just don't watch all thier games or care when those teams have bad days. It is normal for any team to have off nights.

Wisconsin: lost to Missouri St. at home, lost at Michigan St (not the same this year).

North Carolina (lost to Gonzaga, lost to V tech twice, lost at Georgia tech, 6 losses)

Florida (Lost to Tenn. Lost at LSU who had lost 9 of thier last 10)

Any of these teams could be in the Final Four or win it. These teams have also had close games that they won when they didn't play well. Point being is all the close games or losses when KU didn't play well are not out of the norm. KU can lose tomorrow and still go on to win it. They just have to put together a 6 game winning streak at the right time.

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