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As Jayhawks drop in polls, their expectations fall, too

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Which ranked team has been the biggest disappointment so far this season?

While UCLA fans making their annual call for Steve Lavin's neck might disagree after the Bruins lost to San Diego and then Duke to start another soap opera season in Westwood, here's a vote for No. 14 Kansas. The team that usually finds a way to blow games in March is doing it early, too.

After a couple of easy victories at home, the Jayhawks deflated faster than a Thanksgiving Day float against North Carolina in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden, then came out just as flat and got beat by Florida in the consolation game. Talk about an expensive trip to New York.

"The guys are down. There are a lot of expectations here, some of them unrealistic," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "I'm not the guy who put us No. 2 in the country. Some other guy did. I thought we had some reservations and I still think we have some reservations."

Is that hotel reservations or restaurant reservations? Kansas still might make some for New Orleans and the Final Four this season - the last time the Jayhawks lost back-to-back games this early, they wound up winning the national championship in 1988 - but will need one of its key players to emerge from an early-season slump.

While most of the Jayhawks have lived up to expectations, sophomore point guard Aaron Miles has started the season handling the ball poorly and shooting it worse. He was badly outplayed in New York and will face one of the nation's top point guards tomorrow in Oregon's Luke Ridnour.

"Aaron really had a very consistent preseason of practice for us and when we started playing the games, he hasn't played as well," Williams said. "I still have total, 100 percent confidence in him. The ball just hasn't gone in the basket for him and he hasn't made quite as good decisions as I think he needs to make."

Miles made only six of 26 shots in his team's first four games (23.1 percent) before making six of 12 in Wednesday's 97-70 home win over Central Missouri. What's equally disturbing for a player who broke Jacque Vaughn's freshman assist record is that Miles has committed 18 turnovers to partially negate his 31 assists.

"He had such a great year last year and those expectations sometimes get unrealistic, sometimes for one individual, much less a team," Williams said. "His head coach keeps saying that most guys improve a great deal from their freshman to sophomore year. Maybe I set him up with too high expectations."

Texas two-step

Speaking of expectations, they're never as high for the Texas basketball team as they are for the football team. The Longhorns have put together a solid program in recent years, but their fans have never worked themselves into a frenzy for basketball.

That is why Texas reaching No. 2 in this week's rankings - the highest ranking ever for the basketball program - barely registered in Austin. Rick Barnes, who left Clemson because it was too much of a football school, has become a little more understanding of the mentality with the Longhorns.

"Expectations for our football program are incredible. I don't think I can compare our football and basketball programs in that way," said Barnes, whose team will play George Washington as part of the BB&T; Classic doubleheader tomorrow at MCI Center in Washington. "The fact that we won three national championships in football, that is what is expected.

"Basketball has had success, but it has never been to that level, so I would have to say that the expectations in football outweigh basketball. But that doesn't mean that our expectations as a team ... aren't high. I know our team has extremely high expectations."

Holding court

The sight of Sidney Green rolling around the court with his players after Florida Atlantic beat Georgia State for the Atlantic Sun Conference title to clinch its first NCAA tournament berth last March likely will be replayed if the Owls get to the conference championship game again this season.

Green, an All-American at UNLV who played with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, made a smart move by somehow enticing Miami to play at Florida Atlantic's tiny gym in Boca Raton. The Owls beat the Hurricanes there Tuesday night, 74-73, in overtime.

"We've been on the edge of taking this program to the next level and we had to beat a big team to get there and stop settling for moral victories," said Owls junior guard Earnest Crumbley, who led all scorers with 25 points. "I don't think that their level of respect before the game was where it is now, but after playing against us they know that we are as good as them."

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