Sunday, March 12, 2006
Dallas Less than an hour after becoming Big 12 Tourney champs for the first time since 1999, Kansas (25-7) learned that it will be a No. 4 seed and will play 13th-seeded Bradley (20-10) at 8:30 (CST) on Friday at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mi.
A win over the Braves, one of four Missouri Valley Conference schools selected to the 65-team tourney Sunday, would earn the Jayhawks a Sunday date against the winner of No. 5 Pittsburgh and No. 12 Kent State, which tips off at 7:10 (CST) Friday. KU's game will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion.
"I know enough about Bradley. Being at Illinois, I know they love their ball and Jim (Les) has done a good job there," said KU coach Bill Self, whose squad has won 15 of its last 16 games and avenged a 25-point blowout to Texas two weeks ago with an 80-68 victory in Sunday's Big 12 Tourney title tilt.
"It is a very tough first round match-up, and whichever team, Bradley or ourselves is fortunate to advance you definitely have a tough five seed playing a 12 seed.
If Kansas makes it out of the weekend with two wins, the Jayhawks would advance to a Sweet 16 match-up at the regional site in Oakland.
Bradley tied for fifth with an 11-7 record during the MVC regular season. The Braves made it all the way to the MVC Tournament championship game last week in St. Louis but fell 59-46 to Southern Illinois.
BU had nonconference wins over DePaul, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss and Tennessee Tech in a BracketBusters game.
Russell Robinson, who was a freshman on last year's team that suffered the shocking upset to Bucknell, said he will warn this year's talented freshmen class to not look past any opponent at this time of year.
"Last year taught us a lot. You can't take anyone for granted," said Robinson, of the Bison who KU could potentially play again in the Sweet 16 in Oakland. "Bradley is a tough team and they play in a tough conference."
Robinson went on to say that the way the Jayhawks won Sunday's tournament title over a top-notched team like Texas, added even more confidence to a streaking team before the big tournament begins.
"This makes everybody more confident," he said. "We just beat a real good team fighting for a No. 1 seed. We got to feed off that and take it into the tournament."
Self and a couple of Jayhawks said they'll have a tough match-up against Bradley's 7-0 center Patrick O'Bryant, who is averaging 13.2 points and eight rebounds per game. Senior Marcellus Sommerville leads a quartet of Braves in double figures as Bradley returns to the Big Dance for the first time since 1996.
"I spoke to coach Self about him and he told me that he plays a lot like me," said KU big man C.J. Giles. "I know that I just need to guard him as much as I did LaMarcus (Aldridge) and we will be fine."
Self said the Jayhawks too could be in good shape as long as their focus stays the way it has lately.
"I know our approach needs to be a lot better than what it was last year going into the tournament," he said. "Last year we went into the tournament on kind of a down swing and this one we're certainly on an up swing.
"But playing well this week doesn't guarantee anything next week. But I think it gives us great confidence and the atmosphere and everything will be comparable to an NCAA tournament-type atmosphere. So I think we got a lot out of coming to Dallas this week."
One national announcer, former Duke standout Jay Bilas, totally agreed -- saying Kansas could make it all the way to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
"I like Kansas to get all the way to Indianapolis," Bilas said on ESPN's Bracketology show that aired after CBS's field of 65 teams was revealed Sunday. "I like Kansas' path to get to the Final Four out of this region. The toughest game they are going to have is Pittsburgh."
Bilas, who picked KU to beat Marquette in the Elite Eight but lose to Duke in the national semifinal, also gushed about KU freshman Julian Wright.
"Julian Wright is turning into a star right before our eyes," said Bilas of the KU frosh, one of five Jayhawks who scored in double figures in the win over Texas.