St. Louis Kansas University’s basketball charter bus pulled directly in front of the Hyatt Regency at the Arch Hotel at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday in the heart of downtown St. Louis.
The Jayhawk players were greeted by about 20 youngsters and their parents, who cheered wildly as they picked up their room keys and headed to the elevators to drop off their gear before returning to the lobby for a dinner excursion to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located just down the block on Chestnut Street.
Coach Bill Self said his Jayhawks were hungry — not only for a delicious meal, but a Sweet 16 victory over North Carolina State (9:17 p.m. Friday, Edward Jones Dome).
“One thing I like about our guys: We’re not concerned about anything other than us and N.C. State, to be candid with you,” Self said. “I’m really proud of our guys. They’ve come together well. Thomas (Robinson) has played great. Tyshawn (Taylor) has become great. But it’s Elijah (Johnson), Jeff (Withey), Travis (Releford), Conner (Teahan) ... those guys have elevated their game and given us a chance. We haven’t been a team that very many times has had five guys hitting on all cylinders. We’ve kind of had to piece it together. One thing these guys have done, they’ve been pretty tough.”
Self was asked if he liked the fact the Jayhawks were flying under the radar with the media occupied over the status of North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall, who broke his hand in the Tar Heels’ second-round victory over Creighton.
No. 1 seed UNC plays Ohio at 6:47 p.m. Friday in the first game of the Sweet 16 doubleheader.
“Once you get this far, you are going to play good teams regardless moving forward,” Self said. “If you are fortunate enough to play a second game this weekend — us or N.C. State — they’re going to play a good team whoever that is. I think for Kansas fans, it adds to the flavor a bit having Carolina in town. I don’t think it’s a big deal like it used to be.”
KU beat former Jayhawk coach Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels in a Final Four semifinal in 2008.
Self was also asked about Missouri of all teams during a media gathering at the team hotel.
“You know what ... why talk about Missouri? They’re not playing here. We’re playing here, not Missouri,” Self said of the team that dropped a first-round game to Norfolk State. “That’s not a knock to them. That’s the tournament. It’s crazy. A lot of things can happen. I’m focused on what we do, not what anybody else is doing or has done.
“I really don’t anticipate a lot of Mizzou fans to be at the game, to be honest with you,” he added, asked if the MU fans would root against KU. “That’s one thing I think has been blown up more so. We are not concerned about Mizzou or their fans. We’ve got a job to do, and that’s to get Kansas ready to play. That’s our only focus.
“I’d think we’d have a great turnout of fans over here. We play late enough on Friday that fans who work a majority of the day could still get here.”
Remembering Wolfpack: Self was a graduate assistant on coach Larry Brown’s KU staff the only time KU has played N.C. State in the NCAA Tournament. KU won, 75-67, on March 23, 1986, at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
“I was a grad assistant but I wasn’t high enough on the totem pole to sit on the bench. I was sitting in the stands,” Self said. “It was a great game, an Elite Eight game in Kemper Arena. Hopefully there will be a similar result this time.”
Self on N.C. State: “N.C. State is so athletic, so talented. They are deserving to be here and playing really well right now.”
Self on KU’s women’s team, which plays Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on Saturday: “It’s great. How ’bout that? They go from being nervous whether or not they are going to get in (tournament) to winning two games. I saw a stat ... only two other programs in the country have both teams in the Sweet 16 (Baylor, Kentucky). That’s really cool. I’m really happy for our women. They work hard. They’ve had an unbelievable string of bad luck with injuries. It’s good to see it all come together for them.”
This, that: The Jayhawks will hold a shootaround from 3:10 to 4 p.m. today at Edward Jones Dome. ... KU players watched the movie “Mission Impossible” on the team bus Wednesday.
Hinson tied to Southern Illinois job: Southern Illinois University has offered former Illinois coach Bruce Weber its head coaching job, a source told ESPNChicago.com.
If Weber declines, SIU may turn to Kansas University director of basketball operations Barry Hinson, Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller, Marquette assistant Tony Bedford or Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti, the website said. ESPN said Hinson has interviewed for the job.