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

angry.”

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

and UNLV.

“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

weekend.”