Kansas basketball coach Bill Self's all-time Sweet 16 success hard to ignore as top-seeded Jayhawks prep for Providence on Friday night


Kansas head coach Bill Self rips into his players during the first half on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas head coach Bill Self rips into his players during the first half on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

The more I look at this Kansas-Providence game in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Chicago, the more I see Clemson in 2018.

The Friars and Tigers are only somewhat similar in styles. Both rely on their guards and 3-point shooting. Both play a statistically slow tempo and neither team blocked a lot of shots.

But both are talented teams that, at the slightest sign of an off night by the Jayhawks, become a very real threat to knock off the region’s top seed.

The reason it’s hard to see that happening — just like it was in 2018 — is because of KU’s success in the Sweet 16 under head coach Bill Self.

Friday night will mark the 11th Sweet 16 appearance by the Jayhawks in 18 NCAA Tournaments under Self. Kansas is 8-2 in those previous 10 Sweet 16 battles. Self will be coaching his 14th Sweet 16 game as a head coach. He is 10-3 in his previous 13 trips.

Past success does not forecast future joy on the same stage, but there are plenty of reasons to like the Jayhawks’ chances because of what they have shown at this point in the NCAA Tournament in past seasons under Self.

KU’s eight Sweet 16 wins under Self have come by an average of 15 points per victory. That includes a 32-point win over Purdue in 2017, a 26-point win over UAB in Self’s first NCAA Tournament with the Jayhawks, a 20-point win over Richmond in 2011 and double-digit wins over Maryland (2016) and Villanova (2008), as well.

Five of the eight Sweet 16 wins under Self came against programs from power conferences.

What’s more, seven of the 10 Sweet 16 games previously played by Self-coached Kansas teams took place on a Friday, with the Jayhawks going 5-2 in those games.

No. 4 seeds are 1-2 in Sweet 16 games against Self and Kansas, and Providence, as a 4 seed at 27-5 overall, makes that the most common seed of KU’s Sweet 16 opponents under Self.

In addition to those four games, the Jayhawks are 2-0 against 5 seeds in the Sweet 16; 2-0 against 12 seeds; 1-0 against 9 seeds; 1-0 against 11 seeds and 0-1 against No. 2 seeds.

The high number of games between teams seeded on the 4/5 line makes sense given the fact that we’re talking about a KU program that has been a No. 1 seed nine times in 18 tournaments under Self.

None of these numbers from the past and their link to this season are much more than coincidences, though. They’re fun to look at and seem to point to a great deal of success in this round. But it’s hard to know if any of it means anything for this week.

I get why people say Self and his staff are tough to beat when you give them five or six days to prepare for an opponent. But it's not as if the Providence staff isn't over there working just as hard. More on that a little later.

The bottom line is this: The Jayhawks are going to have to play extremely well on Friday night to get by Providence. The Friars are talented, confident, athletic and tough. And they, like ninth-seeded Creighton before them, figure to enter this game with a free-and-easy vibe.

While that makes sense, and the pressure always seems to be on the higher seed, I’ve never really liked the concept of teams having nothing to lose in the NCAA Tournament.

Even 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s, which already has cemented itself as one of the all-time great underdog stories in NCAA Tournament history, has something to lose. It’s called their season.

None of these teams are ready to go home. And none of them, no matter how big or small, will ever be together in their current form again. For guys who spend so much time together — both during the year and during their careers — the arrival of the end of the road seems like an awful lot to lose.

So, yeah, Vegas will call Kansas the favorite, and the world outside of Lawrence always likes a good underdog. But the Jayhawks and Friars — along with 14 other teams still dancing — both have plenty to lose this week.

It’s that type of urgency and attention to detail that Self and his staff will bring to the week’s preparation. And their experience on this stage, and with these stakes, — compared to that of Friars’ coach Ed Cooley, who is coaching his first Sweet 16 game as a head coach and appearing in just his second all-time — could give Kansas a significant advantage in the days and hours leading up to tipoff.

After that, of course, it’s up to how the players execute on game night. But it’s hard not to look at Self’s past success in this round as at least some kind of edge for the top-seeded Jayhawks.

KU and Providence will tip off at 6:29 p.m. Friday from Chicago’s United Center on TBS.


Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Past success doesn’t ensure future success, but it is a good forecast. That’s what forecasting is. Did you dive into the losses to see if there were any similar characteristics?

Definitely like our chances with most of a week to prep.

Chad Smith 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The week of prep is important. The similar characteristic about the 2 sweet 16 losses is the state of Michigan. Avoiding that seems to be key. Losing to MSU in 2009 and Michigan in 2013. Both games KU gave away as they were leading by more than one score late in both games. But most of the sweet 16 games KU has played very well in, and in the two losses they played well enough to win, just didn't execute down the stretch and the opposing teams made some great plays

Lee Short 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Gosh, Matt, I cautiously think you are right with the implications of your concluding statement.

To expound on that, there have been so many upsets or extremely close games by the underdogs in this tourney, this makes me feel like a 51-49% winning chance for KU, not the 79% winning chance ESPN is reflecting. It was kind of scary watching Providence play their last game. It reminded me of some o the mid-majors teams we have lost to in the past. The guys really seemed hot. I can see why their fans changed, "We want Kansas". As you said, they are feeling confident.

We had to over-rely on a source that only until recently was not dominant i.e. Remy. Setting aside the coin-flip nature of DMacs play, I wonder how he'll do in this type of match-up. After seeing enough of his play over the last two years, that young man always scares me.

Ironically, if we do manage to get past Providence, I feel the next game gets easier, but no reason for anyone to spend more than a few seconds thinking about that yet.

Edward Daub 6 months, 2 weeks ago

A phone call with Zeke Mayo, the Lawrence High product, who plays for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits is highly recommended. The Jackrabbits gave Providence a tough game in Round 1. Then, Providence turns it on and "de-cobwebs" the Richmond Spiders in a blowout win, a team that upset the Iowa Hawkeyes! Talk about unpredictable!

Ochai Agbaji is the lone first team (AP) All American remaining in the tournament. The others have already been sent home. His performance will be one key to success!

By the way, Gonzaga has 2 second team All Americans in the twin towers of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. Chet made my first team "all Ichabod Crane"!

I look for Purdue and their second team All American Jaden Ivey to end the Cinderella run of Saint Peters. Purdue also rotates two good post players. Rock Chalk!

Robert Brock 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill Self needs to add a few new wrinkles to the very predictable offense and get Ochai freed up a little.

Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

What a mess of an article.

Will they, won't they, could they, should they. Self's experience will be an edge??? Yeah it will be helpful to know what to expect. Of course Cooley might benefit by not have the pressure Self has as a 1 seed.

Past success without looking at losses is only half of the story. We have been to the final four 3 times out of 18. Sweet 16's are nice but the goal is the Final Four. Any thing can happen once you get there. #3 Final Fours ranks tied for 22nd* of all coaches. (it does not matter for most people here that Self has coached for fewer games than a lot of the coaches above him)

I like Self, I think when he is given time he has the team well prepared. He is elite during the game, sometimes a little slow to make a change but he makes it.

If we win and face Miami we will have our hands full to trying to beat them, even with our "edge".

Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Lee - To say that only until recently Remy was not dominant, ignores what he had done for years at asu. He’s been dominant plenty but realizes it’s not enough to win championships, that’s why he’s here.

It reminds me a bit of Michael Jordan. He was crazy good from the start but didn’t have enough support to win championships. He got more support and was less dominant - to start. It seemed that he worked real hard at getting his teammates involved and focused on all the complimentary aspects of the game. Then when needed he reverted to his dominance.

For all the reality commenters, no this is not saying that anyone is MJ. Not even close. Just some similarities to how the game is approached.

Edward - All but one consensus 2nd team are still playing. This year, it doesn’t seem to be a big gap between 1&2.

A year ago, some thought Purdue’s starting center was good enough to be drafted - sorta a Draymond Green, and he’s the backup now. It’s hard to keep 7-4 on the bench. Aside from Ivy though, their perimeter is relatively week which is probably the root of their weak D ratings. Saint Peters has had great guard play that has controlled the games. It could be the difference in this one as well.

Chad - MU had Burke (nba) and msu had Kalin Lucas (Big Ten Player of the Year) as well as Draymond Green. Lucas and Burke both controlled the end of the games. Maybe more important than geography.

Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Dirk you never cease to amaze me.

Your defense of any criticism of our program for any reason, makes me think you are on some kind of defense retainer for Matt, our program, anything KU.

I can see clearly why you have no sense of reality nor reason sometimes. It appears you even caught yourself about the Remy comparaison. To me, you should have started out that paragraph with your disclaimer - "similarities to how the game is approached" makes me think of said player...,. When you start off with "it reminds me of "said player. You have buried the lead, so to speak.

I will gladly keep reminding you when a dose of reality is needed. I am always here to help you.

Caden Ford 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Great article, Matt! Looking forward to the game! I believe we should play with a chip on our shoulder since it seems that a lot of people didn't even have us winning this game since Iowa was supposed to be the "dark horse" and take us down.

Now all of the sudden since Providence is up next, all of those people who said we wouldn't make it are saying" wow, KU is looking good" and "they have an easy bracket"...nah. There are no easy games in the NCAA tournament and our guys know that! We need to keep that mindset of all of the people who were doubting us and everybody who said we wouldn't make it past the Sweet 16 and use it as motivation to prove them wrong.

No matter the opponent, when we play our game and execute well, we are pretty dang good! And using that fuel from the people who didn't give us any credit in the first place will be important moving forward for this team! RCJH!

Jonathan Allison 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill Self takes a lot of grief for losing in elite 8 games. So it makes since that he should at least get credit for being successful in sweet 16 games.

I'm not sure whether its his fault or just a small sample size but it does seem like his team struggles in the second round, and the elite 8 when they have only a day off and a short prep.

Barry Weiss 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I fall on the side of seeing this game as tough that could come down to the last possession.

Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Jonathan - Some people just like to complain. Anything less than perfection/championships is failure. I think BBN have been calling for Caliparis head recently as well. Jay Wright will be the only current coach ahead of Bill and John.

I think it might have even been Matt that wrote an article about the teams being significantly better the first game of the 2 game sets than the second.

There was another article a few years ago that looked at statistics for seeds winning games, and then the results for each coach based on those probabilities. Coach Self was a couple games behind though it didn’t include credit for always being at the dance. Always. We also missed out with one of the best teams in a while in ‘20.

David Robinett 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Shut down the three, and we win. Pretty simple. Yet we never seem to do that…

Jeff Coffman 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Self is good with getting time to prepare...really good in 1st, 3rd and final four. Not as good in 2nd 4th and 6th round games. Basically two reasons why, 1 teams are better when they go to the next round and self know how to prepare for a team, but lacks the ability in a 2 game turnaround. I think he should play more sat and mon turnaround games not in conference to aid in this process. In conference you already have your scouting report...not with non conference games.

Allin Herring 6 months, 2 weeks ago

David i totally agree with you. We seem to alway be upset by the team that kills us by the team that can hit their threes in bunches. Maybe we can use this week to come up with a game plan to guard the arc!

Bj Cassady 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I like JWil to dominate and be the difference maker in this game with CB right behind. OA to bounce back and have a OA type of game and DMac to have a nice double double. For Remy to continue his ride. RCJH!

Lee Short 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Dirk, you are right. My apologies re Remy.

As much praise as I have heaped on Remy, it appears I still short-changed him. Gotta love the article written by Dennis Dodd with CBS entitled, "Remy Martin completes explosive Kansas team armed to make run at 2022 NCAA Tournament title". In it the reference is made, "...Remy Martin completes explosive Kansas team armed to make run at 2022 NCAA Tournament title.."

One notable line is, ":.. During a court-storming following a loss at Texas on Feb. 7, Martin's knee got "bumped," according to Self. That resulted in more time on the bench...". You have to wonder if we would have one or two fewer losses if Remy's effectiveness (his present level of play) wasn't delayed by this. Court-storming injuries need to be stopped! Enough already.

Dirk, thanks for straightening me out.

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