Des Moines, Iowa Three Kansas University freshmen got their first taste of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
And even though their team rolled to a 105-79 victory, the experience was not without its share of restlessness for the first-timers.
“It was a very exciting,” said forward Carlton Bragg, who tallied four points, three rebound and three steals in nine minutes. “When I first came in, I had a lot of nerves and I fouled early. I just had to get the nerves out. After that, I think I played really good.”
Most members of Bill Self’s top-seeded Jayhawks (31-4) did as well. But while that might have been expected for players like Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden or even Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, freshmen Cheick Diallo and Lagerald Vick did not get their chance to shine until much later in the game. When they did, however, they made the most of it.
Diallo scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in seven minutes and Vick tallied seven points in 10 minutes.
Given the nature of the match-up — a No. 16 seed still has never beaten a No. 1 — Vick said he thought his number would be called at some point Thursday. But that did nothing to diminish the experience.
“Man, that feeling is amazing, really,” he said of playing in the Big Dance. “The atmosphere is kind of different but not too much.”
After his top-seeded Jayhawks blew out Austin Peay, 105-79, Kansas coach Bill Self discusses his team's depth and what KU accomplished in its first-round victory in Des Moines, Iowa.
As for Diallo, the atmosphere of actually playing in the event he first started watching back in 2012, “when Kentucky won national title,” was much different than he expected.
“I was so scared the first time I saw NCAA Tournament game on TV,” Diallo said. “I was like, ‘Wow. That game was hard.’ But by the time I played today, I was like, ‘That’s an easy game.’ That’s how I was feeling. Today I was so excited.”
Asked in the locker room after Thursday’s victory if the experience had sunk in yet, Diallo was honest.
“I believe a little bit,” he said with a huge grin. “But even now I’m like, ‘Wow. I got nine points in NCAA Tournament.’ I was so happy.”
This crew’s second crack at the most popular tournament in all of sports comes Saturday, when No. 1 Kansas takes on ninth-seeded UConn in the second round.
— See what people were saying about KU's first-round victory during KUsports.com's live coverage