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Friday, February 8, 2008

Mayer: Bruins trouble in tourney

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Not again! I'm pleading with the bracketology gods of college basketball to prevent Kansas and UCLA meeting before the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

Why such fervent prayer? KU is 0-5 against the Bruins in tourney play; right now the Ukes are better than the '08 Jayhawks. If KU is doomed to 0-6, don't let it happen before only Memphis, Duke, UCLA and Kansas remain.

UCLA dropped Kansas, 68-60, in the '71 national semifinals, then KU fell to Western Kentucky in a third-place game. In '74, UCLA prevailed, 78-61, in another third-place face-off after Marquette dumped KU in the national semifinals (North Carolina State won the title from Marquette).

There was a '78 KU first-round loss to UCLA, 83-76, at Eugene, Ore. (when announcer Curt Gowdy butchered so many names). Mastery of KU by the Bruins hibernated after a 71-70 sub-regional thriller at Atlanta in '90. The cocky Uclans bagged another "sure thing" last March, 68-55, in the Elite Eight. KU trailed only 35-31 at the half. The Jayhawks had plenty of chances to win since UCLA had 25 turnovers. Yet Kansas negated its 17 steals with 21 turnovers and let the Californians go 8-for-17 with three-pointers. Aaron Afflalo punctured KU with 24 points.

Afflalo is gone, but UCLA's recent massacre of Arizona showed countless reasons for KU not to stalk the Bruins for a while - certainly not early in tournament play. The Ukes have three lightning-quick guards in Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Russell Westbrook. The sluggish Jayhawks let Kansas State's and Missouri's speedy guards whip them off the dribble; such nightmares would be compounded by UCLA.

In 6-foot-9, 260-pound freshman center Kevin Love, UCLA has an entity that KU couldn't handle at this stage. Little wonder people are talking about this versatile powerhouse, with incredible grasp of the game, in the same breath with K-State's Michael Beasley for freshman-of-the-year (and certain NBA first-round selection). The Bruins have size and experience in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata-Real and Alfred Aboya, who were big trouble in '07.

¢ Mark Mangino is quietly but steadily running a football recruiting machine that has a great chance to remedy one of KU's all-time Achilles heels - productive numbers. While Mark and Co. may not be bringing in the alleged, egotistical heirs to the throne of Jim Thorpe or Jim Brown, they are getting fine, coachable kids like Todd Reesing and Brandon McAnderson. They are filling the ranks not just with "stars" but guys who will play a lot, and well, maybe not instantaneously but down the line.

KU's had superstars like Ray Evans, John Hadl, Gale Sayers (add your choices). It too often has fallen short of the usable depth that can post 12-1 records and win Orange Bowls. Mangino is building 55-and-up rosters that have the "padding" to keep things going.

McAnderson is a classic example of a kid who was given tutelage and opportunity, constantly improved and produced big-time without a lot of pressure. KU has had a lot of "late-bloomers" like B-Mac, Carl Sandefur, Andy Graham and the like who paid off down the line. There have been local stars like the Wertzbergers, John and Ken, but they, too, are typical of how you can get good kids and develop them.

You need direction, talent and desire, but you also need lots of good, if not great, guys. Mangino's understanding of this necessity has put KU where it is, well into the realm of respectability.

Comments

KEITHMILES05 12 years ago

Okay Mr. Mayer......is there anything else you would like to the list of why UCLA would beat KU handily? Who the heck cares at this stage of the game? Why UCLA? Good grief! There is 6 weeks to go until the tourney. What is your deal? A slow week for you to report some REAL news?

jayhawker_97 12 years ago

shame on you Mayor Mayer! i'd really like KU to meet UCLA again and break the spell on us. KU can and will beat UCLA. no fear, my friend.

JHWKNMIZRY 12 years ago

KU beat KU last year in the game with UCLA. We had a bad game and they had a good game. We missed thirty-something layups and a bunch of free throws. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce the right way. Last year it happened in our final game. I didn't even blame bad calls. lol

Jonathan Andrews 12 years ago

M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N

Our players need to understand that we can't plateau right here. I think our coaches see that our team thinks it can rest on its laurels right now, hence the all-defense practice yesterday. We are far from good enough to take any top 5 team's best punch come March/April. I don't mind admitting it. We have room to grow; now we just need t oput in the time and effort, and DO IT!

yates33333 12 years ago

Mayer fails to note several location and refereeing advantages UCLA had in some of these games. The idea that foul calls even out is nonsense in a single game meeting. I remember the "sweat fouls" that even Gowdy recognized. Likewise, perhaps UCLA will be forced to play KU in Kansas City someday. Furthermore, who know who would win. Not Mayer. Too bad he isn't good enough to write for the LA Times. Wouldn't you miss him?

Sanity 12 years ago

"...reasons for KU not to stalk the Bruins for a while - certainly not early in tournament play."

Do you even think when you write? There are no "bracketology gods" placing KU against UCLA early in Tournament play.

Kansas has enough challenges ahead of them as they seek to get guards to play between their man and the goal. This team is finding out that Big 12 guards are more than the pre-conference players whose pockets could be picked as they were allowed to go by. Good guards can penetrate when given a step and an angle, and KU defenders have resembled matadors as the missed steal attempts and allowed their men to score or dish deeper inside. Film, instruction, and defense drills all day long (like yesterday) will either teach our players to defend against Bears, Bruins and Tigers, or KU will stop growing and be another early flash in the pan like many Williams teams. Quite simply, KU will finish where KU deserves to finish. They have a lot to learn before the dance. The have 5 weeks of daily lessons and lab simulations before attacking their third and fourth goals for the year.

It is certainly OK for the ignorant to get their panties in a bunch worrying about an early round matchup with a team that will be seeded at the opposite end of anyone's bracket at the closest. However, until Memphis falters, they will deserve the easiest 2 seed. Certainly Georgetown, UCLA, and Tennessee are far from cupcakes to have opposite Kansas in a bracket. In 1997, young UofA players learned enough to beat 3 number one seeds on their way to the title. If KU looks past their conference foes towards UCLA, they might have to do the same. Any way it is sliced, they will have to beat some good teams and play well in the tournament. One thing is certainly obvious to the lucid, '71, '74, & '78 have exactly zero to do with an '08 matchup. How you get paid fo saying so reflects poorly on those in charge of your newspaper.

Finally, It would be appropriate if you would remember your journalism classes that taught you not to write in the second person ... "You need direction, talent and desire, but you also need lots of good, if not great, guys." With editors with do not care or know enough to catch this stuff, it is no wonder we hear of the Lawrence Urinal World.

Bob Zielinski 12 years ago

yeah, there is no way the freshman love could be contained by kaun, jackson or arthur. love is way too fast running the floor and, at 6'9, i just don't see any of our guys being able to contain him. why didn't he mention any regular season wins by KU over some very good ucla teams? let's get the #1 seed and pray we don't have to play a #2 or #1 seed in the first or second round games. pray pray pray.

okjhok 12 years ago

Mayer sure has a way of getting you all pretty ruffled. I'm sure he doesn't read the "message boards," but if he did, I'm sure he'd be laughing. Do any of you really think that at his age he's looking for affirmation from any of you, or even cares in the least what some anonymous blokes think about what he writes. It's an opinion column. He's paid to give his opinion. This would be a pretty boring site if everyone wrote the same, tired, pro-KU propaganda every day. While I don't agree with everything he wrote about KU's ability to compete with UCLA, he makes some good points, and I think UCLA is playing better than anyone in the country right now, and probably stands as KU's biggest obstacle to a championship, given their defensive intensity and style of play. Don't agree with me? What do you think, then? Don't worry, I don't bash people who have different opinions than I do.

JNgohawks 12 years ago

Good point bobsarobot. One of my alltime favorite wins was smashing UCLA in the field-house after being down by like 19 at halftime. Awesome game! Then next year we beat them at their school. In all fairness, last year it was not just to let UCLA as a #2 seed play us as the #1 in California, what is the point of regional brackets and seeding?
I did like the article and I doubt we would be in the same bracket again if we were both 1 & 2 seeds, I bet we would be split up.

KUFan90 12 years ago

"Let's pray we don't have to play a #2 or #1 seed in the first or second round games"

Where do we start with this comment? If this DID happen, it would mean we would be a 15 or 16 seed (if first round) or a middle seed (if second round). Either 1) you don't understand how seeding works, 2) you think we will lose most of the rest of our games, or 3) its a typo.

Chris Shaw 12 years ago

"We were more a ball-control type team. We wanted to dictate the tempo, run when there was an opportunity to get an easy bucket. Other than that, we were a good executing team in the halfcourt. I think we (this year) are those things, as well. We couldn't score points in a flurry like this team does."

This was in yesterday's article that Danny Manning was commenting on his 1988 team. I did not have a chance to comment on it yesterday, but it does pertain to this article as well. Danny's description of his 1988 team is an exact description of this year's UCLA team (Except UCLA has more athletes and more depth). I think this UCLA team is tougher than last year, but they have a lot of qualities of that 1988 KU team. They control and dictate tempo just like they did against us in the Elite 8 last year. I don't know if any of you had an opportunity to watch last night the UCLA/Wash St game, but UCLA looked awfully good. They just keep coming at you and they really do play an ugly style of basketball, but it is very effective. I do think that the refs give Love way too much credit, but one thing he does exceptionally well is make an 80 foot outlet pass like none I've ever seen (Maybe have to go back to Bill Walton for such perfection when it comes to the Outlet pass).
As did Kansas State against the Jayhawks and the UCLA Bruins did last year, the teams that dictate tempo against our 2007-2008 Jayhawk team will have a very good chance of beating us. If it is a ball game where every possession counts I have my doubts for this year's Jayhawks. I just haven't seen us in recent history (Since 2003-Bill Self era) to win those type of ball games. Southern Illinois was a battled tested game for us last year, but I really think that game wore us down for that UCLA game. I love this Jayhawk team, and I really want them more than anything to prove me wrong, but I think the style of teams similar to 1988 KU and this year's UCLA team are an achillies heel for us............

Chris Shaw 12 years ago

I wish there was a team in the Big 12 North that KU could start having an intense rivalry with. I"m hoping KSU can sustain it's success and start getting big time recruits and build that program b/c I really do think it would help KSU, but really help KU. I don't put Mizzou in this category b/c Mike Anderson's syle of play just isn't a staple for success. I think that style of play does nothing for KU to help prepare for the tourney and is a wasted 2 games on the schedule. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to watch and play, but it really does nothing for preparation in my opinion. I wish we could get a typical Ben Howland, Young Bennet (Wash St.) Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo team in the Big 12 to help with a different style of play. Kansas State did a good job of that against us and Bobby Knight preached it, but he was past his prime and couldn't get big time recruits in. We will see, but I'm hoping the last 8 games on the schedule will really battle test us starting tomorrow with Baylor, Monday at Texas, home against Kansas State, and final game at Texas A & M.

Vic Janeway 12 years ago

I disagree with most here, UCLA now has a target on its back for KU to zero in on. Just look at KSUk how they came out of their losing slump toward KU. Its the desperation and pride that brings any team up to play that level(as good on not). KU has had(or just does) played down to other teams. They need to have their Pride boiling over and with teams like NC and UCLA it could easily happen. A great win it would be, a win taking the program to a higher level.

Kirk 12 years ago

Last year's UCLA matchup was a classic example of the typical KU loss in the Self era.

During the regular season, most KU opponents are very weak. Very few are legitimate Sweet 16 level teams. We smash their brains in.

But when we finally meet an unintimidated strong team, and we find ourselves down a few points with 6 or 8 minutes to go, we panic, toss up desperation threes, throw the ball away and show a total loss of poise.

Therefore UCLA is a good team to remind ourselves in those few moments when we pause in congratulating ourselves for pounding on conference tomato cans.

Craig Lang 12 years ago

As somebody who was there in San Jose for the Elite Eight last year, I can say that UCLA was unfairly awarded with a home court advantage, despite being the No. 2 seed. In fact, the Bruins did not even have to leave their home state until they reached the Final Four (where they promptly lost).

Kansas still should have played better in spite of the disadvantage, but the venue clearly motivated UCLA. I say if KU had played UCLA in a non-California venue, Self would have made his first Final Four appearance.

okjhok 12 years ago

I agree with a lot of what you said, shaw. I don't know about the KU '88/UCLA comparison, but just like last year when I thought UCLA was the best team in the country, I think they're there again. They are lucky in that their conference really prepares them well for the tourney. There's a lot of diversity in that league, but more than that, there's a lot of talent and well-coached teams. It's not like the Big East where everybody plays one-on-one isolation bball. KU needs to do all they can to avoid ending up in the west again. I say that like it's easy, but I know it's not.

okjhok 12 years ago

I doubt it, lalawguy. It's not like UCLA took advantage of the home-court advantage. They played almost as bad as KU did, but they had players that stepped up when they needed them.

actorman 12 years ago

Yeah, I'm pretty tired of the whole "home court" thing. I was there too, and although the crowd was decidedly pro-UCLA, I thought that had very little to do with the outcome. The biggest problem was that the KU guards kept trying to penetrate and kept getting the ball stolen or taking terrible shots. I think Sherron's injury had a HUGE amount to do with the loss, as he would have been the most likely player to be able to penetrate the UCLA defense. The fact is that if you're a great team, it shouldn't matter whether you play a team on your home court, their home court or Africa (to quote Mr. Beasley). You need to come ready to play and show some poise and judgment, none of which KU showed. Again, I think that had much more to do with KU's frame of mind and UCLA's defense than it had to do with any home-court advantage.

As for Mayer's article, I don't have a big problem with it. It's always interesting to get historical perspective, and I take with a grain of salt any attempt to use history as a basis for judging this year's team. The one thing that did bug me a little was including the 1974 third-place contest in the results. WHO CARES what happened in a meaningless consolation game??? It's quite appropriate that they stopped having that game. Can you imagine anything a player would less rather do than have to play a game that means nothing after losing in the Final Four?

jprich 12 years ago

This sounds like another knee-jerk reaction by Mayer, just like last week when he said KU's players were far from ready for the NBA after the KSU game. I saw UCLA's beatdown of Arizona last Saturday, and I was impressed. But let's put that in perspective, Mayer. How many times has KU had 'that game' where everything goes right for them? It happens in college ball, and it happened to UCLA the other day. I also saw UCLA at Washington State last night, and the Bruins certainly struggled much more on the road before pulling away in the final minutes. I just don't see how people like Mayer can predict the future of a team based on one game from that season (KU's loss to KSU, UCLA's win over Arizona).

I can only imagine the headline from Mayer twenty years ago: "KU doesn't stand chance in tournament because of multiple losses to Oklahoma and unimpressive winning record. Danny Manning not ready for NBA, should stay in college despite eligibility barring him from doing so."

I forget, was Manning a senior in 1988?

bg97 12 years ago

So ridiculous. Who freaking cares about UCLA right now. Can't you come up with something better than this?

okjhok 12 years ago

"Who freaking cares about UCLA right now." Anyone that has any knowledge of the current landscape of college basketball cares about UCLA right now. They happen to be IMO the best team from the best conference in college basketball. I don't know, maybe you're more of an NBA fan or something.

ralsterKUMed95 12 years ago

I thought we all discussed this in March, but again, in my opinion, KU 'lost' that game way more than UCLA 'won' it. ALSO, 08 KU team IS different from last year. 2 top leading scorers are BIG men. Last year it was a guard. This year 2 of the guards are better than last year (Rush and Chalmers) while all 3 bigs from last year are improved, while adding the depth of a 4th big (Aldrich). This IS the team we have to put our hopes in, and it IS better than last year in many ways. I personally WANT us to play Duke (easy win), UNC (fun win), UCLA (revenge win), Memphis (dose of reality for Memphis). People are critical, and partly correct about the BigXII conference not being the strongest, but goodness--what can you say about Memphis' conference?? They are like KU last year or the year before, at best, but you could still say the BigXII was stronger than their conference in those years also, making it hard to accurately judge or compare Memphis to KU unless they play head-to-head. Its a pity we cant play them all with THIS KU team. It has been said our athelets play to the level of the opposition--call it cockiness or whatever, but I am certain they would all be 'up' for all these top tier opponents. Would be some of the best college ball you ever did see, I think.

WhatleysMustache 12 years ago

Thank you for your input Father Time.

You should be writing for ESPN Classic

quigley 12 years ago

TJ Whatley has to be in the starting lineup of "all-time" awesome KU walk ons. No Doubt. Love that Name mustache!

klineisanazi 12 years ago

There is no way KU and UCLA will meet "early in tournament play" unless the bottom drops out for one, or both, starting today. Yes, UCLA will be a load if KU plays them in the Elite Eight or Final Four. Any team KU plays at that stage should be a load. That is how the tournament is set up. It is called "seeding". Now go back to admiring Sasha's good looks and curly locks. Yikes.

soapboxstew 12 years ago

So Mayer writes for the LJW, but he doesn't like the hawks? He trashes our players and their NBA potential, then he is afraid of playing UCLA. Time to hang em up Father Time. Last year and the 0-6 tourney record is exactly why I want to play them this year. Especially if we meet in the E8. We are the one's that are due (like KSU @ home this season). If we played them in the E8, we would be seeing RED. Last year we missed 32 (if I remember correctly) dunks or lay-ups. Julian had bad turnovers at clutch times. They hit off-balance last-second 3's all game long. We actually outplayed them. Of all the top teams (Memp., Duke, UNC, UCLA, GTown, and Tenn.), I like how we match up against UCLA the most. Love is very good (like UNC's Hansburough), but we have 20 fouls worth of guys just as tall and just as heavy.
We would be more motivated to win that game. We are the better team. We would beat UCLA. Mayer...write something positive about everybody's favorite team in their favorite sport; or write nothing at all. You have used up your negativity with the Jayhawk Nation. Next time, we get mad.

soapboxstew 12 years ago

BTW, if the Pac-10 is SOOO much better than the B12, then why did we beat them in the hardwood series? Why did the B12 beat their BRAINS in outside of the 'Hardwood Series'? We beat USC @ USC, UCLA lost to USC @ Pauly. Both the USC and Arizona as "common" games are moot to this conversation. Even if we dismantle Texas @ Texas (who beat UCLA @ Pauly), it does not make us better, or them worse.
I'm sick of the 'Big 12 is weak' you bloggers spout out. We will have 6 teams in the tourney this year. Only the Big East will have more, and the Pac-10 will have 5, maybe 6 at the most. BAYLOR should have beat WSU by double figures. STANFORD (Pac-10 #2) would get their faces kicked in by Texas (B12 #2). NEBRASKA (B12 #11) beat the 6th best Pac-10 team in Oregon. WASHINGTON got smacked by OSU for pete's sake. I mean they got absolutely dismantled. aTm did loose to 'Zona, but they were up by 15 before the ref's remembered that they work for the Pac-10. Find me the person that thinks that 'Zona is better than aTm so that I may smack him. I think that aTm would be the second best team in the Pac-10.

We will play @ Texas, @ aTm, @ OSU this year. We will be as tested if not more tested than UCLA come March.

Give the B12 due props this year, we've earned it.

FlaHawk 12 years ago

All you have to do is look at RPI. KU is very low for their ranking and it will continue to fall as they play the Big XII cupcakes. They probably might even lost another one.

Only Memphis plays a similar schedule. NC, Duke and UCLA play in conferences that will continue to lift their RPI and they are much higher.

Coach Self teams have always suffered this way. I thought the schedule this year would have been better, but the GaTech, BC and USC, DePauls wimped out on us.

KU MUST avoid the late season "dullness" that comes from playing the stiffs in the Big XII. How about a non-league challenge in late February or ealy March?

Never happen, but would do wonders to wake the team out of it doldrums!

jaybate 12 years ago

WHY UCLA IS THE TEAM TO BEAT:

--They have played in the last two Final Fours with most of the players on this year's team. No other top team this year can say that.

--They lost Afflalo and gained Love--they are net better. No other top team except Memphis can say they are net better than last year.

--They have 4 good bigs who can play with any opponent all game one on one. No other top team can say that.

WHY UCLA IS NOT THE TEAM TO BEAT:

--Love is a frosh and first year big men, even great ones, often can't get it done. Ask Greg Oden and Wilt Chamberlain. And Kevin love is no Oden or Chamberlain. But: is he a Walton, or a Jabbar? Walton and Jabbar could do EVERYTHING Love does AND jump. He's no Walton, nor a Jabbar. Hence, he likely won't get in done in a big game.

--PG Collison has no credible backup in case of fouls or injury. Fouls happen, even if injury gods smile.

--Wing man Shipp is not a great outside shooter. Someone like our Brandon Rush could completely shut him down...if he doesn't have to guard guys like Mbah a Moute, or Aboya, who each have 2-3 inches on him.

--Without true two Afflalo, UCLA is not ideally suited to exploit KU's weakness--short guards. If UCLA goes big with Love, Mbah a Moute, and Aboya, then Rush has to guard one of those three and KU has NOONE who can handle Shipp for a game.

Having said all of the above, Memphis remains, as I have said since seeing them play the fourth week of the season, the team to beat. Memphis is UCLA's worst nighmare (bigger guards, better wings, more bodies). Memphis is UNC's worst nightmare (without Lawson, everyone is UNC's worst nightmare). Memphis is KU's worst nightmare (bigger guards, more speed, better rebounding bigs).

Frankly, this will make everyone scream here, but Duke is the team best suited to beating Memphis. Duke, on a good shooting night, is probably the best team in the country right now, but on any other night Memphis destroys them.

jaybate 12 years ago

Noone on this board seems to want to face up to how good Memphis is.

Unless KU's bigs are able to completel dominate Memphis' bigs and massively outscore them, then their big guards are going to feast on our little guards and the only thing that can save us is Brandon Rush. And he could save us. Brandon is a potentially great player, who has not shown greatness this year. If he beasts in the tournament, we are probably unbeatable. If he doesn't, we will likely be out the minute we meet UCLA, Memphis, Duke, Tennessee, Wisconsin, or Georgetown.

I wish it didn't all come down to Brandon, but it does. There is no other potentially great player on this team, just one heck of a lot of very good ones. But our team is sooner or later going to have to face some exceptional players, just like they had to face Beasely and Walker. Its all well and good to "guard," like Coach Self says, and we are a wonderful defensive team, but there comes a time when great players have to beast to take a team over the top of other teams with other great players who are beasting.

At the top level, basketball remains a very mano a mano game. Great player need terrific supporting casts that accept their role with the great player. But terrific supporting casts have to have that great role player who beasts when beasting is needed.

Brandon is going to have to have some 30 point games down the stretch in the tournament for this team to go all the way.

Can he do it?

People forget now that there were questions about Danny Mannings toughtness and want to even well into the '88 season. People said he didn't really want to play post; that he wanted to be like Magic and hated that Brown forced him to play like a traditional post man.

But when it came down to it, his senior year, down the stretch, Manning turned into an absolute post man. He carried he team on his back whenever it needed him to. He forgot that he probably did have the ability to play somewhat like Magic Johnson and embraced the post. And oh how he beasted when it was necessary.

Brandon, Mr. KC Kool Jazz, it is on your shoulders. You have a great supporting cast. They are molded perfectly to fit you. But you have to take over.

prairie_dog 12 years ago

IMHO, we lost the UCLA game last year because we won the SIU game, which was an exhausting 2 hour brawl. We lead the UCLA game by 10 or so, then started missing layups and free throws. That's fatigue. We could be unlucky again this year in the draw, who knows?

I still like our chances in Mch although we need to shore up some holes. Let's peak at the right time this year--Mch/April.

Sparko 12 years ago

Last year being a road game on one-day rest; after the most physical game of the year, that might have been a factor. Luck and pairings determine the national champion as much as anything. Kansas did beat last year's national champion. There have been 5 or 6 Kansas teams that could have won the championship with some luck, better officiating or fair seedings. UCLA is not the Wooden team of paid professionals either

Joe Ross 12 years ago

jaybate...

I for one will own up to how good Memphis is. Im just hoping that a relatively weak conference schedule will lull them into security come tournament time and theyll be caught unsuspecting by a four seed or something like that.

Tad Shurtz 12 years ago

I'm still annoyed that this piece of crap is filed in the KUsports football section. Change it, please.

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