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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bradley basking in glow

Coach Les tickled with win over KU, but wary of Pitt

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— Jim Les was Bradley's starting point guard in 1986, the last time the Braves played in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Twenty years later, Les finally has the Braves back there again, this time as coach. To him, there's no debate about which feels better.

"Being a player is more of a personal satisfaction," Les said Saturday. "Now it's like being a part of the tradition and history of Bradley basketball and being a part of putting it back on the map. ... Seeing all the people now that have been affected. It's more fun to be a part of that."

In the 16 or so hours since the 13th-seeded Braves stunned fourth-seeded Kansas in the Oakland Regional, Les said he received congratulatory phone calls from former players, alumni and even old professors.

Now it's his job to stop the party and get the team focused on doing it all over again.

The Braves (21-10) play fifth-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round today.

Thanks to 7-foot center Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh has been looking down on opponents nearly all season. That won't be the case against Bradley.

The Braves have a big man of their own in the post - 7-footer Patrick O'Bryant.

In an era where more and more teams are going to three-guard lineups, especially in the tournament, a matchup featuring two true centers is an increasingly rare occurrence.

"I think I should be all right," O'Bryant said. "He's definitely got the body and weight advantage on me, but I think I have the length and agility edge."

Time and time again in the opening-round victory over Kent State, Pitt guard Carl Krauser simply lobbed the ball over the top of the defense to Gray, who made all six of his shots to score 17 points and also had 13 rebounds.

He won't get his touches as easily with O'Bryant keeping an eye on him.

"If I can't lob it over, I'm just going to find another way to get him the ball," Krauser said bluntly. "I have to get him the ball."

The Panthers are gunning for their fourth regional semifinal appearance in the last five years, which may give them the edge over Bradley, which hasn't played in the NCAA Tournament since 1996.

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