The Kansas Insomniac

Cat Tracks welcomes a new columnist to the ranks. Message board legend TheThrill22 makes the move from the message boards to the front page. His first effort is a tale of the tape about the two coaches in Saturday's showdown. Roy Williamsof KU and Lute Olson from Arizona.

How each slept last night-
Olson: Soundly. The state of Arizona basketball is in its continuous elite-level stage. He has no pressure to win championships with this freshman-laden team, but he still sleeps like a baby knowing something the rest of the country doesn't: that these freshmen, when teamed with Jason Gardner and the other two Wildcat juniors, are an immediate force. There will be no sleepless nights for the "Diety of the Desert". Arizona basketball is a Final Four contender when no one thought it could be and to top it off, the future couldn't possibly be brighter.

Williams: Didn't. Not even a few liquid doses of extra strength Nyquil could do the trick for the KU head man. Williams is burdened with a team that must win now and realizes that a loss to the young Wildcats will have Jayhawk fans up in arms with disappointment. The veteran Jayhawks were (and still are, mostly) just about everyone's pick to challenge Duke for the Title this year, but after a close loss to upstart Ball State, most of America has seen Kansas's weaknesses exposed. Roy Williams knows that his club should defeat Arizona this Saturday. What he also knows is that Arizona has nothing to lose. That nice 1,500-point win over mighty, mighty Pittsburg State (who?) was weathered almost immediately with thoughts of McKale, Gardner and Olson running through Roy's mind. Arizona has a way of slamming reality back into focus for teams.

How each spent Thursday's practice- Olson: Calmly went over the foundations and intricacies of interior defense with freshmen Isaiah Fox, Channing Frye and Dennis Latimore. He knows full well the challenge his young trio has in trying to defend potential All-Americans Drew Gooden and Nick Collison. He also knows that, win or lose, his kids will learn from this game and improve dramatically as the season progresses. After time with Fox, Frye and Latimore, Lute smiled at two things: First, he saw that Jason Gardner was still inside McKale center and secondly, he looked down at the floor at half-court where his beloved Bobbi's name is now etched for eternity. He smiled because he knew she was watching from the ultimate balcony seat at what could become his career's masterpiece. Williams: Screamed at Jeff Boschee about "why aren't you faster?" or something. He then asked if Boschee liked to actually NOT shoot a three just because the ball was in his hands. Williams was also very pleased at times, especially when watching freshmen Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and the recovering Wayne Simien. He felt secure about his two studs: Collison and Gooden, but couldn't fight off the bout of anxiety when thinking about containing the three Wildcat jets of Gardner, Stoudamire and Will Bynum. God knew Boschee wasn't going to put up much of a fight defensively.

How each talked to prospective recruits on the phone yesterday- Olson: "Playing at Arizona means the chance to continually play for the National Championship. We're on T.V every game, we have wonderful weather in Tucson, beautiful girls and a coaching staff that cares about your education, your family and will make you a better player from the first day you step on campus. We have a tradition of excellence and a foundation of players to keep that proud tradition rolling for years and years to come. It's up to you to decide if you want to come and be a part of that tradition; we certainly want you."

Williams: "NO! WAIT! I need you though! Drew and Nick are leaving me after the season and other than Wayne, we ain't got dadgum thing going for us up front. What?! You can't commit to Iowa State, they beat us too much already! Hey, they are going to be bad this year, they lost everybody from the teams that bullied us for the past two and a half seasons. If you go there it will just continue. Please, please come here! I need you! We have relationships here. This is the school Wilt Chamberlain attended. I can make you the next Wilt! Huh? Um, I can explain that. At Kansas, we don't care about Final Fours or National Championships. We're more interested in developing tight relationships with our kids so that way they keep coming back year after year to console our current team from the previous year's disappointment.

How each coach will spend Friday- Olson: Finalizes game plan for the Jayhawks in the team's walk through at McKale. Lute stresses the importance of tenacious defense 100% of the time and how to combat some of Kansas's tough defensive sets that his team will face at certain times throughout the game. He tells his team that Kansas is an extremely good team. Probably the best they have faced this year so far, and possibly the best they will face ALL year. He then lets his captain, Jason Gardner speak to the team. Gardner keeps it brief:
"There will be times when we are down against this team," He says. "And I want to know right now, which of you guys considers himself a Champion?"

Everyone says that he is."When we get down, I want you to remember this. Champions don't quit when they are down. Champions fight and they comeback and Champions win."
The team explodes in exuberance at their captain's speech. Standing off in the distance, Lute leans over to his assistant, Jim Rosborough, and says:
"Roz, they're ready."

Williams: Once again yells at Jeff Boschee to, "freakin' pass the ball, Hog!" He then makes Kirk Hinrich run 47 wind-sprints in an effort to make Hinrich faster. When Hinrich passes out from exhaustion, Williams debates whether or not he should call the NCAA to double check on a possible "speed limit" rule that levels the playing field against teams like Ball State and Arizona. Suddenly, Roy has one of his many flashbacks to the 1997 Sweet 16 when Arizona's guards ran circles around their Jayhawk counterparts en route to winning what was supposed to be Kansas's National Championship. Three words come to his mind: "History repeats itself". He calls off the rest of practice before retiring to his office to call about that speed limit thing.

How each coach spends the night before the game-
Olson: Once again sleeps soundly. He respects Kansas and knows that beating the Jayhawks will give his young team even more confidence heading into Illinois, Michigan State and the Pac-10 season. Up until earlier that day, he thought Kansas would probably win. Hell, KU SHOULD win with all those veterans, he thought. But now he has no doubts about the outcome after listening to Gardner's speech. He has his own little version of "Braveheart" on the floor and Kansas is playing the role of the English.

Williams: Roy junks the bottle of Nyquil for the real stuff: Valium. Nah, he thinks. Won't help. However, Roy feels much better after thinking about one thing. He says to himself aloud: "Thank God I didn't take the Carolina job." But he still doesn't sleep. Maybe Saturday night, after the game, he will sleep. For now, however, he feels the pressure.

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