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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ugly and brutal’ game sends fans in San Jose packing

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— Jack Merriman is a fan of Brandon Rush. Watched Brandon Rush. Even dressed up like Brandon Rush.

But he couldn't help Brandon Rush - KU's leading scorer Saturday, with 18 points - lead Kansas to the Final Four.

"Ugly and brutal," Merriman said after the game, filing out of HP Pavilion in San Jose after a 68-55 loss. "We couldn't hold onto the ball - couldn't hold onto the ball, and couldn't shoot free throws."

Now, after KU turned the ball over 21 times and made only five of 11 free throws, Merriman is left looking for a buyer for his Final Four tickets.

"I wish UCLA luck," he said.

¢ Youthful optimism: Jordan George, a high school sophomore, may not have liked the ending of Saturday's game.

But he's sure looking forward to his junior year.

"If nobody's going pro, we've got a great shot," said George of the Jayhawks who play for the school he'd like to attend in a couple of years. "This is a lot better than it's been the last two years, losing in the first round. We've made a lot of progress in the last two years."

D.J. Hilding - who, as a KU grad student, is a few years ahead of George - found himself following the younger guy's logic.

"Hopefully everybody is coming back," he said. "Now we have the (winning) experience in a tournament, which we haven't had the past two years. That made a difference today for UCLA."

¢ Jayhawk is old hat: Bill Pitner isn't your typical "Kansifornian."

Yes, he attended Kansas University. His wife, Kay, graduated from there and his brother, Pat, played basketball there (on the freshman team, a year after Wilt Chamberlain).

Pitner's son, Brett, and daughter-in-law, Katie, went to KU and still live in Lawrence.

But what really sets this school teacher apart in a flock of Jayhawks isn't what's in his heart, but instead perched atop his head: a vintage 1931 (or '32 or '33) handmade felt Jayhawk that could just very well be the oldest "Beak 'Em Hawk" still in circulation.

"I don't know exactly what it is," Pitner said. "The best part about it is, I don't have to look at it."

Pitner figures he's worn the faded felt with the elongated beak - the headgear his dad, Robert, wore as a KU cheerleader on the all-male squad back in the early '30s - to about 50 games, whether it's at NCAA or conference tournaments or Allen Fieldhouse. He still makes it back to Lawrence every now and again, using the season tickets he continues to bankroll despite living and working now in Long Beach, Calif.

Now he'll put it away until next year.

"I hear all kinds of good comments," he said. "It's a fun hat."

Audio clips

2006-07 March 24 KU-UCLA Hoops

¢ Pregame pep talk: Kevin Corbett, president of the KU Alumni Association, took to the bullhorn during a pregame pep rally Saturday afternoon and told about 400 crimson-and-blue fans what many of them already knew.

In restaurants and elsewhere during the NCAA Tournament's west regionals, he said, he'd been hearing plenty about the differences between a relatively small town in Kansas and the larger metropolis in California.

"They say it's 'Boondocks vs. Beverly Hills,'" Corbett called out, to groans from a comparatively well-heeled group of crimson-and-blue followers adjacent to the well appointed Fairmont Hotel, the official team accommodations for the regional.

But fear not, he said. Kansas needn't step back for anyone.

"We're Kansas basketball," he said, drawing cheers.

Comments

Chris McIlvain 13 years, 2 months ago

Roy Williams is 13 minutes from taking North Carolina to it's 2nd Final Four in 4 years. I can only imagine how heart-wrenching it's going to be for most KU fans when he wins his 2nd National Championship in 4 years with that team! But let's keep singing the praises of Bill Self! LOL!!!

Sparko 13 years, 2 months ago

Say, APD, I'll bet you a million bucks that Roy won't have a Final Four team this year . . .

Bill Self is a great coach, and a better human being. I love this team! Great year. Maybe next year we can play on neutral courts??

Chris McIlvain 13 years, 2 months ago

Well, it seems Roy still has some Kansas left in him after all! Classic Kansas meltdown in Carolina Blue!

DCSven 13 years, 2 months ago

APD....

by Jay Bilas on ESPN Insider... quoted here:

Don't Misjudge Kansas: The Jayhawks had a magnificent season, even though it hurts to fall short of their stated goal to make it to the Final Four.

Remember, the teams that make up the Final Four every year are not necessarily the four best teams. They are the four teams that have navigated their paths the best. There is a difference. Kansas ran into a super-tough UCLA team that was older, more experienced and mentally tougher on that day, and KU couldn't convert on some relatively easy opportunities in the lane that the Jayhawks would have normally canned. In addition, KU couldn't hit free throws, which it normally would.

But this was not a normal game; it was an extraordinary game that required an extraordinary effort. The Jayhawks played their tails off for 40 minutes, but the harder they tried, the more mistakes they seemed to make and the more shots they seemed to miss. If Kansas knocks down a few of those relatively easy shots, we might be talking about KU's talent, defense and heart instead of UCLA's.

Kansas had a great season, not just a good one. Bill Self is not just a good coach, he is an outstanding coach. People can put up stats and graphics all they want about Self-coached teams reaching the Elite Eight and falling short and pretend it is revelatory of Self's coaching ability, but that is nonsense without context. Self reached the Elite Eight in 2000 with Tulsa and lost to North Carolina. Reaching an Elite Eight with Tulsa is extraordinary, and no other Tulsa coach can claim such a feat -- including Nolan Richardson and Tubby Smith. Self also reached an Elite Eight with Illinois, losing to an Arizona team with a bunch of NBA players on its roster. Self put the Illinois program in a position to reach the 2005 Final Four by recruiting Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, Roger Powell and James Augustine, leaving to take the Kansas job before getting the chance to see those players grow up and mature into a championship-caliber unit. At Kansas, Self has built a championship caliber program in his image, and I am confident he will not only reach multiple Final Fours but also win a title. He is that good.

Remember when the same geniuses who are critical of Self were critical of Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and Lute Olson? Self is the real thing, and he will continue to prove it. I hate it when I hear someone say that Kansas "failed." If KU failed, by that logic, there must be more than 300 miserable failures out there. That is absurd. Those Kansas kids are winners, and so is Bill Self. They just won't be national champions : this year, anyway.

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