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Sunday, March 17, 2019

4th-seeded Jayhawks prepared for different path in this year’s NCAA Tournament

Jayhawks to face No. 13 Northeastern at 3 p.m. Thursday in Salt Lake City

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members during a press conference following the NCAA selection show on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks will play the Huskies in the opening round on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members during a press conference following the NCAA selection show on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks will play the Huskies in the opening round on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Kansas basketball coach Bill Self’s first thought when the 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed Sunday evening could be boiled down to a single word.

“Hard,” Self said during a meeting with the media at Allen Fieldhouse following the unveiling of this year’s field.

Moments later, Self needed just two words to share his reaction to seeing his fourth-seeded Jayhawks placed in the Midwest region, where, if things go well, they would play a Sweet 16 and/or Elite Eight game at Sprint Center in nearby Kansas City, Mo.

“Almost shocked,” Self said.

But forget about the fact that the Jayhawks could face No. 1 seed North Carolina or No. 2 seed Kentucky in the latter rounds of the Midwest regional if the ball bounces KU’s way in Rounds 1 and 2.

Self’s emphasis during his first glance at this year’s bracket was on this week’s more immediate challenges — KU’s opening-round game against No. 13 seed Northeastern at approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday in Salt Lake City and a Round 2 matchup with the winner of No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 New Mexico State if the Jayhawks are fortunate enough to get past Thursday.

“I like that we’re in the Midwest,” Self admitted. “It’d be nice if we would’ve driven to Des Moines (or) Tulsa (for the first weekend) also, but usually when you’re a 4 seed you don’t get everything catered to you like we have sometimes in the past because we’ve been a 1. I like the fact that we’re in the Midwest, but if favorites win, according to the seed line, having Carolina and Kentucky in one regional, that sounds more like a Final Four than a regional. But a lot of things have to happen for all teams for that to occur. We’re just focused on a two-game tournament and have to put all our emphasis on that and don’t even think past that.”

Seeded outside of the top two slots for the first time in a decade — KU was a No. 3 seed and reached the Sweet 16 in 2009 — Kansas’ path in this year’s tournament stands to be very different than the one Self, his coaching staff and Jayhawk fans are used to.

But for a young team, with so many players experiencing the NCAA Tournament for the first time, Self said playing under the radar, a little bit farther from home, could be viewed as a positive.

“With the 1 seed, whether you want to admit it or not, it comes with pressure if you haven’t ever dealt with it before,” Self said. “Because everybody else believes they’re playing with house money and you believe you have to do something. I’ll certainly look at it from that perspective, but when you’re a lower seed, then obviously the competition is also greater, too, at least in the first-round game. So I’m excited for our guys, to see how they’ll react.”

The initial reactions were about what you’d expect and had more to do with the anticipation and experience of it all rather than the basketball.

Sure, Devon Dotson and Dedric Lawson said all the right things about KU’s first-round opponent — a dangerous 13 seed that enters this week at 23-10 and shot 38.8 percent from 3-point range this season — but the time to dive into the scouting report and breakdown of the Huskies would come in the next three days.

Sunday was about sitting with their teammates in the film room, seeing their name pop up on the television screen — KU’s draw was not revealed until the final region — and celebrating the idea that they, in three days, will get to do something they’ve spent their entire lives dreaming of doing.

“It definitely feels official now, seeing the bracket and seeing your team get a seed as part of the bracket,” Lawson said of Kansas, which will be playing in its NCAA-record 30th consecutive NCAA Tournament this week. “I was just excited, like, ‘OK, OK. That’s who we got.’ It seems like it’s going to be a fun tournament. … The anticipation was definitely there; just seeing where you land and your opponent is very intriguing, and you just want to be out there and start back playing again.”

It’s a very different situation than the one the veteran Jayhawks rode to the Final Four a season ago. From the seed to the road to the expectations and the experience, just about everything is different with this group compared to the past few.

Because of that, people appear to be viewing the fourth-seeded Jayhawks in a very different way than that of perennial top-two seed and national title contender.

“One of the announcers I saw said we were limping home,” Self recalled Sunday. “And I could see how somebody could say that if they look at the scores — the Texas Tech score and the Oklahoma score — but this team’s won 8 of our last 11 and that’s after going through a whole bunch of stuff. And we’re close to getting it, even though we haven’t quite gotten it yet. So that tells me that there’s still a great opportunity for our best to still be ahead of us.

“The biggest thing is to have fun, enjoy it. It’s a reward of guys doing a good job on every team throughout the season, and we need to approach it that way and try to play as free as we possibly can.”

Comments

Tony Bandle 3 months, 1 week ago

Random Thoughts:

1] Well.....at least no school in the Midwest Regional has a name that starts with "B"!!!

2] OK,,,let's make each region fair and balanced. Let's start by putting the three top elite programs in wins in the same regional !!!!!

3] The NCAA Select committee once again kisses Rat Face's butt and gives the Pukes the easiest rout to the Final Four.

4] I think we actually have a chance to get out of Salt Lake City alive whereby we head into KC's Sprint Center for rounds three and four...which gives a chance [unless it's Iowa State].]

5] This year, no expectations.....anything from a complete collapse and a first round defeat to a total team catching fire and getting to the Final Four. Nothing with this group should be assumed is not possible.....and that's both good AND bad!!!!!!!

6] With all the issues with this team this season, if Coach Self gets them to the Sweet Sixteen, he should be the Coach of the Year. If he gets them to the Final Four, he should be Coach of the Decade, If they win the National Championship, he should be the Coach of the Ages!!

Andy Godwin 3 months, 1 week ago

It is a lot to ask but Dedric needs to take the team and lead by example (average at least 25/12 to give them a chance to advance) from the tip-off to the final horn. Quentin and Ochai must be more consistent on both sides of the ball. Depending on matchups, David size will likely be counted upon at times. Devon needs to continue to be fearless and drive, drive, drive the ball (outside of his streaky 3 point shooting he has had a super freshman season). But in order for KU to “survive and advance” the upper classmen (Dedric, Mitch, and Marcus) need to set the standard and the bench (Charlie and K.J.) must be ready at all times and provide meaningful minutes. Good luck Jayhawks. Rock Chalk.

Brian Leslie 3 months, 1 week ago

Marcus is an underclassman (sophomore) and has been coming off of the bench for the last 8 games.

John Strayer 3 months, 1 week ago

Just make a damn lay-up...can't believe how many missed lay-ups I've seen this entire season.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

It'll be an uphill task to get by, even Northeastern. Dedric and Dotson are the only ones who can shoot 3 with good mechanic. 3pt-shooting will be very crucial in the tourney. I can't recall how many pull-up jumpers our team has 'attempted' successfully - Dedric is the only one IIRC. If only we can make those layups/floaters - all our guards- we will need those buckets. With offensive play emphasizing on feeding low-post with not-so athletic players who weave and weave, we will get beat easily. Without pick and roll, cuts, screen and shooting jumpers, we will ride hard on Dedric post magic & Dotson drives. Really, to beat KU this season is to double-team Dedric and shadowing Dotson with a taller player. Northeastern has bigs who can shoot 3s (with good mechanic, too). Their bigs can dunk - they play lobs, too. Best of luck, Rock Chalk!

Armen Kurdian 3 months, 1 week ago

They've just got to play loose and relaxed, don't play rushed, but with deliberate speed. If northeastern plays from the perimeter more than inside, we'll need a solid man to man defense to win. I think we will be able to score within the paint and draw some fouls.

VCU beat us way back when because we failed to defend the perimeter which is all we had to do. We defend the perimeter we will win on Thursday. After that,we're underdogs from hereonin, even if we play NMSU in the 2nd round.

Craig Carson 3 months, 1 week ago

wow..you had to mention VCU..too soon man, too soon LOL

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 1 week ago

These guys rarely play loose and relaxed. They put so much pressure on themselves that the game is over often before it begins.

We lost to the worst teams in our conference. We made Iowa State look like world beaters.

Sweet 16 at best but not likely.

Stuart Corder 3 months, 1 week ago

These young men on this team have been through the ringer this season.

  • FBI/NCAA Investigations
  • Azubuike’s injury
  • Silvio declared ineligible
  • Ogbaji’s midseason redshirt pull
  • lone senior Vick’s “leave of absence” (wish him well)

Our team has shown glimpses of greatness, but thus far is recognized by our stumbles away from home.

“March Madness” can change everything, and I’m optimistic about our chances. What other team’s season has been through the madness already that our Jayhawks have been through? Answer: none.

As the regular season and conference tournaments came to a close, our Freshmen have shown clear signs of improvement.

  • Dotson has become wiser with the ball.
  • Ogbaji has received much needed game time experience.
  • McCormack has started to become a force
  • Grimes is primed to erupt

Along with the Freshman, Garrett has found his offensive identity as a cutter/attacker, whom can hit consistently inside the 3pt line. Mitch Lightfoot has blossomed into a defensive energy force against bigger players.

We have the talent to be “special”. Although we’ve lacked them at times, if we play with aggression and passion and pride, then we can beat anybody.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!

Marius Rowlanski 3 months ago

Good post. You're coming from a different perspective than mine. Maybe I need an upgrade.

Freddie Garza 3 months, 1 week ago

My expectations are not high this year. Every win from here on out is a bonus in my book. I don't see a lot of NBA defections on this team though, so that's promising. Both Dok and Lawson are considered late second round to undrafted.

To me, this team will be a legit Final Four threat next season, assuming we've got Dok and Lawson back for another run, and the back court improves it's shooting from the perimeter.

Ken Stclair 3 months, 1 week ago

Good analysis....I agree on all you said. Plus look out for McCormack next year! He's going to play a lot and be great. But yes.....they absolutely MUST improve their outside shooting and free throws too. Next year could be a great season. This year? Hope they can get to KC. I doubt it but you never know what could happen if they get 2 games in KC.

Ken Stclair 3 months, 1 week ago

Good news is that they will be a great team......Next year. It will be tough for them to even win the first game this tournament .They have two simple problems: They are young and can't shoot. One of those problems will resolve itself.....the other I worry about. Can they really improve their shooting? Probably but who knows. At times they have flashes when they are great.....but then quickly back to reality. I thought they did well just winning the first 2 games in the Big 12 tournament. Be great to see them back in KC. If they could do that then they really would have a shot at Final Four. Maybe not a great one.....but still a chance.

Craig Carson 3 months, 1 week ago

their shooting will improve..I really dont think Grimes is as bad a shooter as we have seen this season..Selden had a rough shooting year his Freshmen season as well and he came back and improved his shot...Ojai has already shown he can hit the outside shot, he seems to have hit the Freshmen wall though...

Marius Rowlanski 3 months ago

So what are you saying about next year? It's going to resemble this one very much except with a complete freshman season under their belt.

Being young is simple? I guess that's the reason behind the multi-billion makeup industry.

Barry Weiss 3 months, 1 week ago

I'm really starting to get tweaked at all these talking heads putting us down, going with an upset by Northeastern. I hope we kick some A and kick it hard!

Craig Carson 3 months ago

me too..I hope KU comes out and puts the game away quickly...I know KU had a rough season but man, can someone pick KU to pull this game out!!!!..they act like Northeastern was undefeated while playing top competition every night

Robert Brock 3 months, 1 week ago

If the Hawks want to survive the first weekend, they have to run their opponents off the three-point line and make them drive it into McCormack, Lawson, and Lightfoot. And KU has to win the rebounding battles.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 1 week ago

And on offense, drive and dish to the bigs, we might have a chance. But pound it through the bigs, there's no chance at all. Mark my words.

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 1 week ago

Different paths to the same destination. I'll put Kansas on top of my brackets because of stubborn stupidity.

David Howell 3 months, 1 week ago

This will be the first year that I will not have KU making a deep run in any of my brackets. All those years we had far superior teams only to lose to "B" teams, etc.

The Jayhawk's have not defended the 3 pt. shot with any regularity in years. They have had years where it seemed they dared the other team to shoot the 3 pt. shot. Asking them to do it all of the sudden is laughable.

If they beat Northeastern, Auburn could have an average game and beat KU !

The last game has me beyond worried. ZERO, NADO, ZILCH points outside the paint in the first half and 2 of 8 from the free throw line. Dedric couldn't throw it in the ocean .........

Marius Rowlanski 3 months ago

Com' on man. I always do a complete homer bracket. I cannot not put KU on top - if that makes sense - it would kill me to have picked someone else unless it was for a lot of money. A minimum of $5.

Brad Watson 3 months ago

Loose and free with an IRON WILL...is the formula...ALL BUSINESS from now on out...get FOCUSED and go out there and play ball lie you know you can....I hope all the blog contributors are going to Salt Lake....the more support the better...beautiful drive if you go by car...stop by Vail on the way out...or hop on the plane...but get there...not too late to go...call your friends...family....take off work and head out there...I BELIEVE IN THIS TEAM AND OUR FANTASTIC COACH!!!!

Brad Watson 3 months ago

March is final exam month ....What grade are you going to get!

Marius Rowlanski 3 months ago

It's either an 'A' for an NCAA title or an 'F' for anything else.

Marius Rowlanski 3 months ago

If NOTHING else, McCormack is going to be a beast next year. Unless academically ineligible, receiving illicit funds from alumni, or has recently just become aware of his rich uncle.

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