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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Keegan

Keegan: Durant at best in best

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A holy man doesn't walk into St. Peter's Basilica and start sinning. Tiger Woods doesn't shank shots at Augusta. Pavarotti doesn't hit a flat note inside Carnegie Hall.

The great ones know how to turn wondrous venues into home turf immediately. There is no better place to watch a basketball game than Allen Fieldhouse, and there is no better amateur playing basketball than University of Texas freshman Kevin Durant. So, naturally, the best was at his best inside the best.

Seeing Durant watch and listen to the pregame introductions of Kansas University players, it was evident he knew all about where he was, knew he never would play there again, and was determined to absorb it.

Nevermind the 25 first-half points and 32 overall despite being defended so strongly, the words of an opponent said more.

"It was frustrating," said Brandon Rush, who did the best of five different defenders at slowing the scoring machine. "When's he gonna miss? Is he ever gonna miss? Is he Michael Jordan?"

If the 6-foot-9 Durant weren't so tall, he'd still be a terrific player because he's such a great shooter, so smart in understanding that in basketball math five equals one, so quick and so fluid.

"He was making three after three after three, posting up, doing everything," Rush said. "He should be the No. 1 player in the draft."

Durant's ability to stop so suddenly, rise so quickly and pull the trigger on such a soft shot, makes him so difficult to guard.

Audio clips

2006-07 March 3 KU-Texas Hoops

"You can't block him," Rush said. "It's impossible to block him unless you're 7 feet tall."

Durant's long, skinny body was everywhere. It was obvious his head never wandered. Once, when he knew Connor Atchley, knees locked, was not still supposed to be standing next to him on the block, he gave him a gentle shove on the path toward his assignment, setting a ball screen on the perimeter. Another time, when A.J. Abrams was standing next to him in the corner, Durant moved him toward the wing to better space the floor.

If Kansas had lost the game, instead of winning it 90-86, most in the crowd would have filed out talking about Durant, instead of bemoaning anything about KU's effort, other than the recurring dreadful late-game free-throw shooting. That's a problem in need of a cure, and Sherron Collins had his second consecutive scoreless game.

Other than that, Kansas brought its best in storming back from a 16-point deficit to a 10-point lead. The Jayhawks made 11 of 18 three-pointers. They blocked seven shots and ran the floor with a kick that suggested getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament means a great deal to them. They didn't let Durant and D.J. Augustin beat them the way Acie Law did.

Sitting at the podium afterward, Rush appeared surprised to be asked where he would rank Durant among players he had faced this season.

"Uh, one," Rush said.

"One," Julian Wright answered the same question. "As far is in the clutch, Acie Law ..."

Interrupting, Rush said: "I don't care about that. He's No. 1."

As a team, Kansas figures to be one spot behind that in the next poll, to be released Monday.

Comments

CasperCorps 15 years, 9 months ago

Unless he is hurt more than we know, we'll be seeing Texas in the final four. Where we'll beat him but rest assured we'll see them again in the big Tourney.

doctorWho 15 years, 9 months ago

Final Four??????

How many years have you been watching KU basketball????

Yes, we are capable of winning the entire NCAA tourney. But we are just as capable of flaming out in week one.

I'll admit I'm a lot more confident that this team will go deep than any other team during the Self-era, but "rest assured" is a pretty bold statement.

Neom 15 years, 9 months ago

Keegan is clueless. Nobody including himself knows what he wants to talk about.

actorman 15 years, 9 months ago

I'm not always enamored of Keegan's writing, but what exactly is your problem with this column? It seems pretty clearcut to me.

kc_wildfire 15 years, 9 months ago

I'm thinking they have a problem with it because it isn't solely about KU. It seems to me that a lot of people who post on this site have their blinders on and only think about KU basketball.

I hate to shatter their bubble but there are a lot of other great teams and players in the country. When those teams and players come to town or KU plays them it is only good journalism to cover all aspects of both teams, not just writing one sided articles highlighting KU.

It is good to be a diehard, loyal, passionate fan but those who have those traits plus objectivity are true all around fans of the game.

jaybate 15 years, 9 months ago

Another day's reflection lets insight grow deeper...

I am a big believer that each game teaches lessons and that great teams and great coaches learn the lessons, while ordinary ones just keep making the same mistakes.

I think the lesson of the aTm game was that no matter what the score is, you can never let up. Games evolve in complexity that makes unforeseeable events almost a certainty. The aTm game showed KU that there really is such a thing as a perfect storm of things going wrong and that had they played a little harder, stayed just a little more focused, came out of the blocks just a little quicker, that they could have overcome a perfect storm of mistakes and beaten a very good team on a day when nothing went right. Learning that lesson fills a team with enormous confidence in just how much is within its grasp and gives it enormous incentive to go full bore tip off to last whistle.

One big lesson to learn from the Texas game is that they can beat a team with a great player. All great balanced teams must pass this test to truly believe in themselves--to escape the inferiority complex created by the absense of a great player. Coaches can tell teams that five men can be greater than the sum of their parts, but it takes first hand experience of it to hard wire it in and affect their confidence for the better. Balance teams who beat great players become confirmed giant killers--Davids no longer trembling at coming Goliaths. They know that their diversity is not invincible, but is the source of their greatness. Bill Self quite honestly expressed the common wisdom of people who know the game regarding great players. He said its more probable to win a hotly contested game with two great players than with a balanced team. Why? Because in a hotly contested game, he said, the two great players play up to their abilities 90 percent of the time, where as the team that relies on balance has to have all five guys at their best to win. And Self said getting five guys to play at their best just doesn't happen all that often.

jaybate 15 years, 9 months ago

And yet when you look back over some of the NCAA champions of college basketball there have been some that were balanced teams. The '57 North Carolina team that beat KU was one. The '64 UCLA team, though Goodrich proved over time to be far greater than anyone realized at the time, were a team of equals, though the scoring was more heavily concentrated in the guards than KU. The '66 Texas Western team was another balanced team, though again not quite as balanced as KU. One could actually argue that the '76 Indiana Hoosiers were such a team. They just had so much talent at so many positions that they were diversified by definition. They relied rather heavily on Scott May, however, however, in the clutch.

Let's just say that balanced teams winning rings is relatively rare, but it can happen. And let's say that this KU has a chance to make history by becoming probably the most balanced team EVER to win a ring! I can't think of a greater legacy for this team to leave Kansas basketball, or college basketball. At a time when selfishness, greed, and screw the other guy organizations seem to rule the planet with egomaniacs and would-be supermen, one group of young men reaffirmed that an unselfish team REALLY can be great.

It is always the young that reveal what conventional wisdom no longer thought possible can in fact be done.

Bill Self admits he is more comfortable as a coach with a team headed by a guy like Wayne Simien.

But this team of balanced scorers is what has evolved and he maybe about to discover what many great coaches have discovered before him. He is about to discover that greatness springs forth from complexity in forms even the greatest coaches cannot foresee...they can only recognize and nurture its path.

There is no guarranty this team will be great.

But there is the guarranty that if it is great, it will break the mold for what conventional wisdom thought possible.

And looking back at UNC in '57, UCLA in '64, Texas Western in '66, and perhaps Indiana in '76 (note: no one on any of these teams to be all time greats in the pros, except perhaps Goodrich of UCLA), it is about time for the mold of conventional wisdom to be broken again.

Go Hawks!

seattlehawk_78 15 years, 9 months ago

I don't get to see Big 12 games as often as I'd like. Yesterdays game was scheduled but the local affiliate showed cartoons instead. But, based on what I've seen this year I'd take Acie Law over Kevin Durant going into the tournament. As long as Law is in the lineup, his team will have a chance to win. I don't know if I can say that about any other player in the country.

CasperCorps 15 years, 9 months ago

I wasn't saying we'd as in "Jayhawks" but we as fans would see Texas in the Final Four. The Jayhawks will be in the Final Four in the next two years though, if not this year..

MarcoPolo 15 years, 9 months ago

As we all know, as Freshmen last year, this group of Sophomores lost in the first round to a very good Bradley team. Beginning with this year and the two that follow -- regardless of who leaves for the NBA -- this team will win many games in the NCAA tournament over the next three years.

Starting with excellent athletes and highly skilled basketball players at every position, this team has bought into a very unselfish "team" concept where they don't rely on a single player to win the game at crunch time. That's a super basketball philosophy and has to be scary to opponents whenever the game is close.

If we can get that free-throw percentage up to 70% or so, there should be very few close games --- that's how talented this team is......

And don't pooh, pooh the writer for giving ink to Kevin Durant; he might be the best Freshman to ever play at Allen Field House. Enjoy the Durant spectable while you can; you won't see him as a collegian at KU again.

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