Top-ranked Jayhawks draws top overall NCAA seed
Look who’s lurking deep in the Midwest bracket where Kansas
proudly sits as overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
It’s none other than Tennessee and Oklahoma State – the teams
who account for the “2” in that glittering 32-2 record that the
Jayhawks compiled while dominating a Big 12 Conference that sent
seven teams into the 65-team field.
As expected, the Jayhawks were given the distinction of being
overall No. 1 and, as hoped, get to play their opening game against
Lehigh in Oklahoma City – an easy drive down Interstate 35 from
Lawrence. But they weren’t thinking that the only teams to beat
them would be right there in their same bracket.
“My eyes got big,” said sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor.
“Maybe we’ll get a chance to get these guys back.”
Tennessee, seeded No. 6 in the Midwest, beat the Jayhawks 76-68
on Jan. 10, while seventh-seeded Oklahoma State – Kansas coach Bill
Self’s alma mater – was an 85-77 winner on a cold night in
Stillwater on Feb. 27.
But that was the last loss for a deep and talented team led by
Sherron Collins, its all-conference senior guard, and Cole Aldrich,
the 6-foot-11 junior center who shattered the team record this year
for blocked shots.
Self made it clear they were in no mood to look ahead.
“There’s also a team that beat us twice in there last year –
Michigan State,” Self said. “You would think if we had a chance
to play any of those teams, it could mean two things. Either the
other team will be confident, or it could mean that we would be
It’s the ninth time Kansas has been a No. 1 seed and the third
time in four seasons they’ve rolled up 30 wins.
Kansas State, in the meantime, drew the No. 2 seed in the West
Regional, the highest seeding ever for the Wildcats and an honor
that Self said was “well deserved.”
The Wildcats, who finished second to Kansas in the Big 12
tournament and regular season, will also get to play in Oklahoma
City on Thursday against No. 15 seed North Texas.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but I’m happy we got a
two-seed,” said Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen. “We have a
chance to make a deep run. I think the players that were here my
freshman year understand the venue and everything that’s there. But
it’s a great opportunity. We get a chance to go into the
tournament, face some teams that are good.”
Self said he would not argue with anyone who claimed the Midwest
is the toughest regional.
“I would agree wholeheartedly,” he said. “If we’re the
overall No. 1 and you’ve got a team out there that’s also the No. 2
seed (Ohio State) that several people thought were in the
conversation for a No. 1 seed, and then you have in my opinion a
team that played unbelievably down the stretch – Georgetown. Your
No. 4 seed (Maryland) is your ACC co-champion, and your five-seed
(Michigan State) is the Big Ten co-champion, or tri-champion. You
can make a case looking at it like that.”
Perhaps with the experience of 2008 in mind, when the Jayhawks
beat Memphis in overtime for the NCAA title, Self said he will not
let his team worry about anybody but Lehigh.
And if the Jayhawks, ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll
all but four weeks this season, get by Lehigh, they will be
concerned only with the next game, the winner between Northern Iowa
“We can get kind of carried away with the tournament if you
look ahead,” Self said. “You can’t look too far ahead because if
you do, you might be preparing for something that doesn’t even
exist. You’ve got to stay in the present and the present is this