ROCK CHALK, JAYHAWK
After a season in which it traveled down the yellow brick road to the national championship, Kansas got hit by a twister. In the seven months between upsetting Oklahoma in the finals of the NCAA tournament and the start of this season, the Jayhawks endured a string of losses. Their coach, Larry Brown, left for the pros; their best player, Danny Manning, became the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft; and, worst of all, they lost the chance to defend their title when the NCAA put them on three years' probation for recruiting violations. "If I had to describe my college career in two words, they would be roller coaster," says point guard Kevin Pritchard.
Those words might also describe Kansas's performance last week. After beating SMU in overtime on Jan. 9, the Jayhawks were upset by Miami three nights later and then defeated Kansas State 75-74 in OT on Saturday behind senior forward Milt Newton's 21 points. Still, for most of this season, the ride has been straight up. At week's end Kansas was 14-2 and outscoring its opponents by 22 points a game, despite having only nine players on scholarship—four others are ineligible as Proposition 48 victims or transfers—and having only three players taller than 6'6½".
Brown's replacement is 38-year-old Roy Williams, who came from North Carolina, where he had been an assistant for 10 years, the first eight as a part-timer. In Manning's stead is 6'9" sophomore forward Mark Randall, who had an 18.1-point scoring average after Saturday. Randall redshirted last year to undergo extensive surgery on his lower jaw, which had grown so long it was interfering with his bite and his breathing. He now smiles as serenely as he plays.
Because the Jayhawks won't be allowed to play in the NCAA tournament, they're treating each regular-season game like a last stand. For instance, in a 115-45 blowout of Brown on Jan. 3, they were still diving under the scorers' table during the clock's last ticks.
Six members of Kansas's 1987-88 championship team are back this season, and they have used their woes as rallying points. Pritchard, who was scoring 14.7 points a game at week's end, thought briefly about sitting out as a red-shirt because of the one-year NCAA-tournament ban. "The day we found out about probation I wondered whether we would pack it in," says Pritchard. "Then I looked around, and I knew we wouldn't. We're basketball players. We compete."
Senior guard Scooter Barry (7.5 points per game) wants to win for Williams. "I fell as bad for Coach Williams as I did for us," says Barry. "He comes in trying to show what he can do, and he starts out behind the block."
Williams was impressed with what he found. "They have pride, and they compete. I guaran-dadgum-tee it," he says. Beneath Williams's folksy dadgums and doggones is a precise planner who schedules his days down to the minute. "Frighteningly organized," says Wichita State coach Eddie Fogler, who was an assistant with Williams for eight years at North Carolina.
Williams turned down offers from four other Division I schools before signing a four-year dcal, at $78,000 per year, to become the Jayhawks' seventh coach in 90 years. A number of better-known candidates, including Gary Williams of Ohio State, passed on the job, at least in part because of the possibility of NCAA sanctions. The hiring of the little-known Williams bothered some Kansas partisans. Williams was unfazed. "I've been too lucky to stop being lucky now," he says.
The Jayhawks, who are playing more loosely and running more often than they did under Brown, are benefiting from Williams's style. Randall, who usually provides the finishing touch on the break, guarded Manning in practice last season, and he's almost matching Manning's output, shooting 66% and averaging 7.3 rebounds. "We've been having a great time," he says—with a grin.
The going may get tougher for Kansas when it meets stronger teams. The Jayhawks have played only one team currently in the Top 20, Seton Hall, and they lost the game. They will face another big test this Wednesday against fifth-ranked Oklahoma, which, win or lose, will almost certainly be playing after Kansas's season has ended. "You know what I want?" says Pritchard. "It sounds crazy, but I want one time during the tournament for some announcer to say, 'It's too bad Kansas isn't here. It would have done some damage.' "
Derric Turner, Navy's 6'7" senior captain, made only three of his first nine free throws this season. Then he really got cold, missing 27 in a row before converting two in the second half against George Mason on Jan. 11. Despite his 2-for-4 shooting from the line in that game, he lost his spot in the starting lineup. "Obviously, it's a mental thing," says Turner. "I try to just look at it as a slump."...
Pitt, which was only 8-6 at week's end, upset Oklahoma 99-91 on Saturday for its second win of the season over a Top 10 team. The Sooners, who came in scoring 110.4 points per game, failed to become the first team since 1977 to get 100 against the Panthers in Pittsburgh....
With its 57-54 defeat of San Diego, Portland snapped the nation's longest losing streak at 21....
Yale, alma mater of George Bush, defeated Swarthmore, alma mater of Mike Dukakis, 111-74 in New Haven in what was billed as the Presidential Classic....
With 6:35 left in the first half of a game against Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, known as IUPUI Franklin College center Scott Roberts went to the foul line, bounced the ball a couple of times, paused and told the referee, "I think we have the wrong ball." Indeed, the two teams had been playing with a smaller ball used for women's games. After receiving the proper ball, Roberts made both his free throws and went on to score 25 points in Franklin's 109-107 overtime victory....
To beat Georgia 76-75, all Vanderbilt needed was: 1) a missed layup by the Bulldogs' Pat Hamilton in the waning seconds, 2) a blown follow-up dunk by Georgia's Marshall Wilson and 3) a three-point bucket by Commodore guard Barry Goheen with one second remaining. And you wonder why coaches act so strange?
1 DUKE (13-0)
2 ILLINOIS (15-0)
3 GEORGETOWN (12-1)
4 MICHIGAN (14-2)
5 OKLAHOMA (13-2)
6 UNLV (11-2)
7 LOUISVILLE (12-2)
8 IOWA (13-2)
9 NORTH CAROLINA (14-3)
10 SYRACUSE (14-3)
11 SETON HALL (15-1)
12 ARIZONA (11-2)
13 FLORIDA STATE (12-1)
14 MISSOURI (14-3)
15 OHIO STATE (12-3)
16 N.C. STATE(11-1)
17 STANFORD (12-3)
18 GEORGIA TECH (10-4)
19 KANSAS (14-2)
20 TENNESSEE (11-2)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Virginia Commonwealths 6'4" senior guard averaged 33.3 points in the Rams' three wins. In their 101-93 overtime victory over Old Dominion, he scored 42 points, including eight in OT.