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Monday, March 16, 2015

Second chance: No. 2 seed KU headed to Omaha

Members of the Kansas University men's basketball team watch the unveiling of this year's NCAA Tournament field Sunday, March 15, 2015, in the Naismith Room on the second floor of Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks earned a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will open play against No. 15 seed New Mexico State on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

Members of the Kansas University men's basketball team watch the unveiling of this year's NCAA Tournament field Sunday, March 15, 2015, in the Naismith Room on the second floor of Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks earned a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will open play against No. 15 seed New Mexico State on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

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For the sixth consecutive year and eighth time in the last nine seasons, Kansas University’s basketball team enters the NCAA Tournament as a 1 or 2 seed.

The Jayhawks (26-8) on Sunday were slotted fourth of the four No. 2 seeds by the tournament committee and placed in the Midwest Regional — better known as the regional with undefeated, top overall seed Kentucky in it.

“If you had told me we were a 2 seed before the season ... we played our walk-ons the last three minutes against Kentucky, and usually we don’t do that, especially when we’re down 35,” KU coach Bill Self said Sunday after learning his Jayhawks would take on No. 15 seed New Mexico (23-10) State in a second-round game at 11:15 a.m. Friday in CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

“After that game, I was thinking, ‘Can we even get to 10 (wins)? Can we get to 15?’ Obviously, being a 2 seed means the guys have gotten a lot better and tried real hard. (I’m) really proud of them,” Self added.

If KU wins Friday, it would meet either Wichita State or Indiana at a yet-to-be-determined time Sunday, with the winner advancing to a possible Sweet 16 meeting against No. 3 seed Notre Dame the following Thursday in Cleveland.

Kentucky — yes, the Kentucky team (34-0) that bashed KU, 72-40, in Game Two of the season, looms as the potential Elite Eight foe, also in Ohio.

“You know what, if this team gets a chance to play in the Elite Eight game, then it’s been a hell of a year. Let’s just call it like it is. And regardless of who you play, it would be a great opportunity for a one-shot deal to go to the Final Four,” Self said.

“But look at the other brackets. Do you want to play Wisconsin? Do you want to play Duke? Do you want to play Villanova (No. 1 seeds)? The answer would be, ‘They are all good.’ Kentucky has been a different level, without question. But we don’t even need to talk about that. I hope we have to talk about that next week.

“We need to win a four-team tournament this weekend, and that will be the same goal of New Mexico State, and it will be the same goal of Wichita State and Indiana. But it will certainly be some pretty good ball. There’s some good teams playing in our pod.”

One of them is Wichita State. The Shockers, who reached the Final Four two years ago and lost only to Kentucky last season, are 28-4 and a 7 seed.

“If you’re fortunate enough to win, the winner of Indiana, storied program, or Wichita State ... how in the world are they a 7 seed blows my mind, 28-4,” Self said.

“I thought the Missouri Valley probably deserved a little more credit than what they got. I thought they (Shockers) would be a higher seed. I was thinking they were a lot better. And I thought Northern Iowa (30-3 and 5 seed) would be a higher seed, too. But you’ve got to lace ’em up, and you’ve got to play, and certainly our goal is to go win two games this weekend, and we’ll adjust from there.”

The first foe does not figure to be a pushover.

“I had New Mexico State, like, a 13 (seed),” Self said. “I was surprised when we drew them. I’ve said most years, as soon as you get in, you are first thinking, ‘Gosh, that seems harder than what others got.’ When you really start studying it, it’s all hard. It’s a hard first game, and we’ve got to be ready Friday because we’ve shown when we are good, we are good, but when we are not very good, we can really labor in a lot of ways, and we can’t afford to take any more five- to 10-minute breaks like we did last night (in loss to Iowa State).”

The Jayhawks do figure to have lots of fans make the trip to Omaha.

“If you remember back, we’ve had a couple of pretty good runs going through Omaha,” Self said. “We won it in ’08 and got the finals in ’12 (after starting in Nebraska).”

Banged-up team: The Jayhawks will return to practicing today after taking a day off Sunday.

“Kansas City was maybe a little more taxing on us than what you guys (media) know, because we are beat up. I mean, we are beat up,” Self said of an injury report that includes Perry Ellis (sprained knee), Landen Lucas (hip, knee, back), Frank Mason III (assorted bumps, bruises, fatigue). “We’ll do a recovery lift (weights) tomorrow, then primarily shooting. We’ll go light, 30-40 minutes, then really get into it Tuesday and Wednesday before we leave.

“The most important thing is try to get our bodies back fresh. Landen is really nicked up. Perry actually did very, very well, even though he’s not close to where he needs to be, so this next four days are real important for him to get that bounce back and that fire back in his jump and explosion. Frank’s played a lot minutes. He’s tired. Wayne (Selden Jr.) played a lot of minutes in the tournament. I think a day-and-a-half of rest will probably be good for us.”

Same story: Self isn’t counting on freshman Cliff Alexander to be cleared this week and play in the NCAAs. “I’ve already told you what our feelings were, and if there’s new information, you’ll get it,” Self said. “Until then, I don’t even think it deserves mention because all it does is take away what’s really important. Right now, it’s just our guys getting ready to play.”

KU in the tournament: Former KU coach Larry Brown’s SMU team is a No. 6 seed in the South Regional. Brown, who also coached at UCLA, will coach against the Bruins in an opening game.

“They are good. I was really hopeful they weren’t a 7 or whatnot because I know that would be a talked-about game,” Self said of a possible KU-SMU matchup against his mentor. “But now we’ve actually given you guys even more to talk about than that from a potential standpoint (if KU and WSU win Friday). But I’m really happy for coach.”

Former KU coach Roy Williams’ North Carolina team drew a 4 seed in the West and will play Harvard in the first round. Former KU guard Jerod Haase’s UAB Blazers drew a 14 seed in the South and opening game vs. Iowa State.

Perry Ellis on possibly playing his hometown team, WSU: “If that happens, I’m excited to play. Whoever it is, it is what it is. Our main focus is on New Mexico State right now. A lot of people talk about it all the time. They want to see us play. That’s great. Fans want to see that. Our focus is not on that right now. It’s on the first game.”

Ellis on his health: “It (knee) is getting better and better each day. I’m going to get there tip-top (shape). I’m working hard with my treatment. It’s going real well.

“When I’m posting up and stuff, guys are brushing againt it (knee brace). I’m like, ‘All right.’ It’s withstanding it. That gave me confidence (minutes in Big 12 tourney).”

Selden on being in Kentucky’s regional: “If we are fortunate to get down the road to play them, that would be great. We’re not really looking ahead much to that.”

Practice: Kansas will hold an open-to-the-public practice 1:30-2:10 p.m. Thursday at CenturyLink Center.

Comments

Len Shaffer 7 years, 6 months ago

It's great to read about how many people with KU ties are in the tournament. Why no mention of Mark Turgeon's Terrapins?

Armen Kurdian 7 years, 6 months ago

WSU got hosed. And now one of us will probably have to knock the other out of the tourney. Don't care for that at all.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 6 months ago

Hogue was saying after the ISU game that he thought they should have gotten our #2 seed with us dropping to the #3. I think that would have been a good trade.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 6 months ago

Hopefully they'll go into the tournament thinking they got jobbed by the committee and get upset by Jerod Haase's Blazers. That'll shut them up!

Eliott Reeder 7 years, 6 months ago

Nah, we want all the Big XII teams to perform well in the tournament, just makes us look all that much better for having won #11...

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 6 months ago

Regardless of the seeding, we could get another shot at ISU in Indy for the NC.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 6 months ago

It always amazes me when they show our team watching the seeding show. They've obviously been there before, and are so marginally interested in the whole thing.

Are the takeout containers in the foreground of the photo included on purpose?

Bob Zielinski 7 years, 6 months ago

I think the reaction is more based upon watching the CBS Selection Show and the delay involved in when they see KU's seed announced. The TV delay creates the perceived disinterest because they have not seen the announcement of their seed, game site and opponent when the cameras are showing them.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 6 months ago

The picture above looks like Bill just announced that there would be a bonus boot camp to get ready for the NCAAs!!

This team rarely shows fire, passion or leadership on the court. It is mostly confusion and deer-in-the-headlights stupor. Based on the youth and personality of this squad, the 11th Big 12 Title may be Bill's finest coaching season!

Armen Kurdian 7 years, 6 months ago

You'd think they could at least pretend to look interested.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 6 months ago

The potential KU vs WSU matchup is more interesting to WSU because it gives them a chance to cover up their insecurities. They spend all this energy on blasting KU because we won't schedule them. This is a business, and it doesn't make business since. We have more to lose and not much to gain. Even Jay Bilas said it. And didn't Marshall call us the "chickenhawks"...? They feel disrespected because we won't play them, but they should feel respected that we don't want to play them with the fear that we could lose. They are a good team, and I liked them until Marshalls comment. What's the sense of starting a fire you can't put out? They say WSU will come in with a chip on their shoulder, but what about KU? I mean, their coach disrespected our name. I think WSU should be careful with their 1st matchup though. Indiana will not be a pushover and have played in a much deeper conference. Either way, I'll be ecstatic if we make it through the weekend. Anything else will just be icing on the cake.

Doug Cramer 7 years, 6 months ago

I am sick and tired of the negativity revolving around this team. The sentiment is so low, that everyone focuses on the bad, and none of the good. Everyone is worried about getting beat 1st or 2nd round.

We are the Big 12 champs. We've played the toughest schedule in the nation.

We were a bucket away from taking out Iowa St. in the Big 12 tourney.

When our defense is on...it is capable of shutting down anyone.

When we rebound well...it's pretty dam good.

When we're hitting our perimeter shots, nobody can beat us.

We finally have a really good point guard thats capable of taking care of the ball, and scoring on quick dribble penetration moves.

We should expect to play Kentucky in the elite 8. Anything short of that, I'll be surprised. This is a good KU team that is capable of accomplishing anything.

If this team has the nasty mind set to grit one out with WSU...WSU won't be able to keep up, and they'll have to shut their pie holes for the next few seasons, and Marshall will have to feel even more inferior to Bill Self.

ROCK CHALK ! Lets get it done boys ! Let go ! Lets go !

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm with you Doug. Additionally, once we get in that KY game, I think we can take them.

We have excellent shooters, who have already exhausted the majority of their statistical misses for the season. Like Selden, who is an excellent finisher, it was only a matter of time before the stats balance.

When this team comes to play, we can beat anyone.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the statistical figures. At some point the shots will fall, and once they do, we're not going to be a team anyone wants to play, even Contucky.

JD Roth 7 years, 6 months ago

Good post Doug. The way people refer to this team, both locally and nationally, you would think they finished in the cellar of the Big XII. Prove them all wrong Jayhawks. Get rested and then execute, execute, execute.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

That's a lot of 'whens' that need to come together at the same time. It hasn't happened very often and never for 40 min. in a game.

We SHOULD make it at least through this weekend but then we should have beaten ISU up 17 points.

Scott Proch 7 years, 6 months ago

Agree Doug! The comment on lack of fire, passion and leadership is WAY out of line. All the games we won to clinch and over the weekend were done with nothing BUT those characteristics. Not hitting shots from 3 and still just finding ways to score just enough. If we start hitting shots, the elite 8 is a great goal!

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 6 months ago

Just saw where Lunardi said KU will lose to Wichita St in the round of 32. If George Washington U can beat Wichita, KU damn sure can! RCJHKU!

William Weissbeck 7 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to think we can win, but WSU has a much bigger chip on their shoulder than we do. They were jobbed both in the matchup and the game against UK last year. Yes they are missing Early, but we are missing Wiggins. We had a far better team that lost to UNI from the Valley. This WSU team is better than that UNI team, as this year's UNI team is also better. Neither of these are the one dimensional Creighton teams from the past in the Valley. Anything less than our A- game and we lose. I haven't seen consistent defense that forces other teams we play into their C games. ISU first half game plan was a joke, it was nothing we were doing. They wised up at half.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 6 months ago

KU is 6-5 over their last 11 games and haven't played very in any of them. It's one thing if KU looked good in several of those games, but they haven't looked good in over a month. That is very concerning for KU going deep in the tournament.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 6 months ago

There is only one thing for sure...KU will lose in the first round or KU will win the National Championship.........or KU will finish somewhere in between.

I live and die with the Hawks as much or even as more as any of you but please tell me how the leopard changes his spots, or in this case, his feathers, going into the NCAAs after 34 games has pretty much set this team's personality??

PLEASE, somebody give me some concrete evidence that this team will start to play to it's potential!! I pray that I am wrong and Suzi is right as we piss off Calpari by ending his season!!

You can make as many cases as you want about being one bucket away or one stop away from this or that defeat. The bottom line is WE DIDN"T GET IT DONE!!!!

I think I'll go take my medication now. :)

James Linthicum 7 years, 6 months ago

I am glad that the NCAA can have a sense of humor, and potentially have KU squaring off against WSU in the round of 32. Both teams are equally as good as the other, and both have one goal in mind....a potential meeting with Kentucky in the elite 8. KU has a great team, although a bit beat up right now, but very capable of getting to the Kentucky match up. WSU also has a great team right now, and are as capable as well of making the elite 8. But with all that aside, I have waited a long time for the potential matchup that can come this next weekend. I realize that Self has reasons as to why he doesn't want to play WSU during the regular season...I think more for reputation than anything..for fear of losing...but this next weekend could in essence be great for attention for both schools. Do I think KU can win..yes. Do I think WSU can win....yes. So I will say this for two great schools...(potentially) may the best team win.

Bob Bailey 7 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, we have excellent shooters, but it appears they have been taken out of 'In The Groove' by our coaches' philosophy! Don't shoot it, throw it in the middle.

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