Fast Break: Kansas greats now rival coaches

Twenty-five years ago Larry Brown and Danny Manning led Kansas to its second national championship.

Today, after all those bouncy basketball years, they’re coaching rivals in Conference USA, Manning at Tulsa and Brown at SMU.

Brown and Manning both won their debut games last week. Brown’s Mustangs beat Loyola Marymount 73-58, and the crowd chanted his name.

Somebody asked Brown if he was nervous. He had not coached a college basketball game since that 1988 NCAA championship game against Oklahoma.
“Oh my God,” Brown said. “This was a long day.”

Manning and the Golden Hurricane beat LSU-Shreveport 110-54. The home crowd also was good to Manning.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It was good to go out and see all the people that had support for our team.”

Manning and Brown face each other twice this season, Jan. 6 in Dallas and March 6 in Tulsa.

The symmetry goes a little deeper, however. Manning spent the last nine seasons in Lawrence, Kan., working for Jayhawks coach Bill Self, first as director of basketball operations and then as an assistant coach. Twenty years after he led KU to the national title as a player, he helped do it again as a coach. Brown, who was not working at the time, informally spent a lot of time with the Jayhawks during that season, and particularly during the Final Four run.

He would take the Charlotte Bobcats job the next season and hold it for two-plus seasons. Manning, meanwhile, stayed in Lawrence, where he became renowned as one of the country’s top coaches of big men. Of the nine players who regularly started in the paint for Kansas during the time Manning was a coach there (2006-12), eight were drafted into the NBA and the ninth, Jeff Withey, is a likely NBA pick come next spring.

Brown’s resume is notoriously exhaustive; while Manning’s head coaching career is really only beginning, the 72-year-old Brown appears to be winding down. Then again . . . this is Larry Brown, we’re talking about.

Austin in Waco

I don’t know what you thought about Isaiah Austin, the Baylor freshman, before the season started. I know I’ve had my fill of “he’s a big guy with a perimeter game” recruiting analysis over the years. That tends to translate one of two ways once he reaches the major-college level:

1) Made a certain number of 3-pointers in high school because he was six inches taller than everybody else and therefore always open.
2) Doesn’t rebound.

There aren’t many Kevin Durants, is what I’m getting at.

While I don’t think Austin is another Kevin Durant, it sure does look like the guy can score, at least in the brief time he has played. In his first collegiate game, Austin had 22 points in 17 minutes (on 10-of-12 shooting), grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots. And though he left the game with a sprained ankle and was held out of the Bears’ second game, his performance against Lehigh was impressive enough to earn him Big 12 rookie of the week.

Here’s the thing, though: His two misses came from 3-point range, and he took four shots from beyond the arc in less than a half of play. The guy is 7-feet-1. I don’t want to get too critical of a freshman who has played only one game, and who played very well on offense. I just think Baylor probably has some other guys who are capable of making 3-pointers, and not as many 7-footers who could impact a game in the paint the way Austin (probably) could.

Player of the Year watch

1. Cody Zeller, Indiana

Didn’t do anything in a blowout win over Bryant that makes me think he’s not still the leading candidate.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan

Had 21 points and eight assists in a win over Slippery Rock, and we all know how treacherous those can be. He followed that up with 22 points and nine assists in Monday’s win over IUPUI.
3. Isaiah Austin, Baylor

If he averages 51.7 points per 40 minutes, he’ll be the only serious candidate for this award. He won’t do that for the rest of the season, but he has done it so far.

Ups and downs

Up: Kansas State

Bruce Weber had a nice debut in Manhattan, beating North Dakota by 33 on Friday. Granted, the Wildcats should blow out North Dakota, but Weber was a somewhat unpopular hire among K-State fans who thought a program that had been more successful than Weber’s Illinois squad over the last few years could have gone a little bigger. Then again, there was also a robust contingent of K-State fans who thought the school should have hired Doug Gottlieb, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

The point is, nice start for Weber and the Wildcats.

Up: Baylor

We’ve discussed Austin already, but we haven’t mentioned junior forward Cory Jefferson, who didn’t get much time last year. He’s averaging 20 and 10 through Baylor’s first two games. Pair him with one of the country’s best point guards (Pierre Jackson), a sharpshooting 2 (Brady Heslip) and maybe the freshman of the year, and Baylor is once again a terrifying offensive team.

Down: Texas

We knew it was going to take a while for an 11-man rotation full of underclassmen to find itself, and we knew coach Rick Barnes was spending more energy on coaching defense this season, but knowing those things does not erase the reality that Texas scored 55 points against Fresno State. The Longhorns won by two, but still.

Conference power ranking

1. ACC
2. Big Ten
3. SEC
4. Big 12
5. Big East
6. Pac-12

Frosh to watch

Isaiah Austin, Baylor

The incredible scoring clip he’s on can’t possibly hold up, and Austin is a big waifish to bang around in the paint with veteran big men. But I also can’t figure out how opponents are going to guard a 7-1 3-point shooter.

Perry Ellis, Kansas

It appears Ellis will lead Kansas in scoring this season. He’s a smooth, 6-9 power forward who can face up or post up. The narrative in Lawrence already begins with, “When Perry learns to get more aggressive . . .”

The Kentucky guys

Nerlens Noel had a tough debut, and may be more of a rim-protector/rebounder than a go-to offensive player, so we’ll focus our attention on guard Archie Goodwin for now.

Telling stats

36 — Points allowed by Minnesota on Friday to American, which shot 23.7 percent and had 14 points at halftime. Remarkably, it was the second time in four years the Gophers have held an opponent under 40. Illinois scored 36 against Minnesota on Jan. 29, 2009.
7 — Number of NBA teams Larry Brown has coached since he previously coached in college.

Crystal ball

In a game with all the rhythm of a gorilla banging on a piano, Michigan State beats Kansas 58-54 Tuesday. Afterward, Self says something about getting “big-boyed.” Actual: MSU, 67-64.

Duke makes 11 3-pointers, Kentucky’s Goodwin commits six turnovers and Noel spends most of the day in foul trouble as Duke beats Kentucky 79-67 on Tuesday. Afterward, Kentucky coach John Calipari says something about how young the Wildcats are. Actual: Duke, 75-68.