Bettors Pick Kansas Against UCLA

Josh Shipp sat on the sidelines last season while UCLA made its run to the national championship game.

He had a better seat than everybody on Kansas' roster, which watched the final five rounds of the NCAA tournament at home last spring.

Though the Bruins and the Jayhawks have two of college basketball's most successful programs, many players on both sides of their matchup in Saturday's West Regional final haven't tasted any of it - and they're all hungry.

Oddsmakers have made Kansas -2 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at

129 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 57% of bets for this game have been placed on Kansas -2 (View College Basketball Bet Percentages).

``I learned to enjoy the experience last year, but it made me want to contribute,'' said Shipp, who missed last season because of right hip surgery, but is the Bruins' second-leading scorer this year with 13.2 points per game.

``If you know the history of our program, you know we're measured by championships,'' he said. ``It's the same way at Kansas, and we hope we're the ones who will get a chance next weekend.''

Nearly two weeks after UCLA's Arron Afflalo anticipated the matchup on Selection Sunday, the top-seeded Jayhawks (33-4) and the second-seeded Bruins (29-5) have earned that date, with a trip to the Final Four going to Saturday's winner.

``We tried not to look ahead, but we all knew there was a good chance we would play Kansas,'' said Afflalo, the Pac-10 player of the year. ``We've been ready for that for a long time now. That's how you want to do go, though. You want to go against the best in the sport, and that's our opportunity now.''

Both teams went through light workouts Friday before one of the most tantalizing matchups of the college basketball season, pitting two tradition-rich programs in a compelling clash of coaching styles and playing philosophies.

But they have a common respect for the history that can weigh on any player in both uniforms. They're standing in the shadows of giants that include Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor; Danny Manning and Reggie Miller; coach Larry Brown and, well, coach Larry Brown.

``No matter how well we do at Kansas, we're never going to do more than the people who came before us, and UCLA feels the same way,'' Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. ``These guys are all great players, but they're not going to be Wilt or Danny. We're caretakers of something we take great pride in for the period of time we're here on campus.''

Yet this meeting could be something significant in both schools' histories. The game pits teams who prefer distinctly different styles - Kansas' uptempo offense against UCLA's hard-nosed defense - but have no problem changing to fit the situation.

Kansas, which lost in the first round in each of the past two tournaments, essentially couldn't run against Southern Illinois' defensive virtuosity Thursday night, but still scrapped out a 61-58 victory.

UCLA thrives in coach Ben Howland's slower, punchier scheme, yet still believes it has enough athletes to run past any squad in its way, including the Pac-10's speediest teams.

The teams had something else in common: They exuded confidence Friday - confidence in their skills, their adaptability and their plans for next weekend in Atlanta.

``We can only beat ourselves,'' UCLA guard Darren Collison said. ``That's the way we feel. We feel like we're the best team here.''

But if the Bruins attempt to match Kansas' fast-breaking speed, ``I think that would be a bad idea,'' said Kansas guard Russell Robinson, whose matchup with Collison could determine the game's tempo and result.

``We've got enough guys to be able to play defense, and still get out and run. I want it to go up and down. I think it would be a good game, and a better game for (Kansas).''

The Jayhawks have won 14 straight, while UCLA has rallied from consecutive losses with three straight tournament victories. Kansas' dominance wasn't lost on Howland, who became a semi-regular television viewer of Jayhawks games during sleepless nights in Westwood.

``They're a great team,'' said Howland, the first UCLA coach to lead the school to back-to-back regional finals since John Wooden. ``They're the No. 1 seed, the hottest team in the tournament by far. They were killing people. They were crushing people.''

The Bruins have an edge in NCAA tournament experience after last season's run to the national championship game, but Kansas has played as many high-profile games this season as anybody.

And though the Jayhawks will be wearing their home whites, the California crowd should be slanted toward UCLA.

``I don't think it's fair,'' said Kansas' Brandon Rush, whose brother, Jaron, played two seasons at UCLA. ``This is going to be like another away game, so we're going to have our backs against the wall. We're going to have to fight and use our talents.''

by: Marc Young - - Email Us

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