Kansas Earns No. 1 Overall Seed in NCAA Championship

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Link Selection Sunday Press Conference 

LAWRENCE, Kan. – It’s official: Kansas has been selected as the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, CBS revealed during its Selection Show on Sunday evening.

The top-ranked Jayhawks will begin their NCAA-leading 27th consecutive appearance in the tournament against Ohio Valley Conference tournament champion Austin Peay (18-17) in the first round on Thursday (3 p.m. Central, TNT) in Des Moines, Iowa, at Wells Fargo Arena. The winner of the first-ever meeting between Kansas and Austin Peay will face the winner of No. 8 seed Colorado (22-11) and No. 9 seed Connecticut (24-10) in the second round on Saturday.

Kansas (30-4, 15-3 Big 12) enters the NCAA Championship as the undisputed No. 1-ranked team after winning 14-straight games, including the Big 12 tournament title with a win over No. 9 West Virginia on Saturday, and its unprecedented 12th-straight Big 12 regular-season title. The Jayhawks have a program-best 11 wins over opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, including a 4-0 mark against top-10 opponents.

This is the seventh-straight season that the Jayhawks have earned a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. In Bill Self’s 13 seasons, KU has never been seeded lower than fourth. Kansas has been a one-seed 12 times (1986, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016).

Overall, the Jayhawks are making their 45th NCAA Championship appearance. KU is 97-43 all-time in NCAA postseason games, including 30 Sweet 16 appearances and 14 trips to the Final Four.

Kansas is one of seven Big 12 Conference teams to earn an NCAA Championship bid, marking just the seventh time in NCAA history that 70 percent of a league was selected. The seven teams tied the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 for the conference with the most programs represented in the tournament.

In all, KU faced 11 NCAA tournament teams in 2015-16. Self, the USA Today National Coach of the Year, guided his Jayhawks through a non-conference schedule that included No. 2 seed Michigan State, No. 4 seed Kentucky, No. 7 seed Oregon State, No. 11 seed Vanderbilt, and No. 16 seed Holy Cross.


Senior forward Perry Ellis

Q. Was it anticlimactic at all? You probably knew a little bit about where you would be before today, or was there still some excitement to see your name up there?
PERRY ELLIS: It’s always still exciting. This is a great time of the year, where everything comes down to one game, and we are all excited about it.

Q. I know it’s just announced, but have you looked at your region? Do you have any thoughts overall?
PERRY ELLIS: I feel like this is a pretty strong region, but our mindset is still winning a game at a time. I feel like if we keep that mentality, we’ll be fine.

Q. What did Coach Self say to you guys? Any message afterward or anything he wanted to relay to you guys?
PERRY ELLIS: Just to stay focused, to get ready for tomorrow, come prepared to try to get better and just work hard.

Q. Do you know much about Austin Peay?
PERRY ELLIS: Not much. They won their tournament, so they have momentum going forward. So it just goes to show that every game will be tough.

Q. You try to be confident going into the tournament every year, but is there more reason for you guys to feel confident this year than the past couple?
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, winning the (Big 12) tournament was a great thing for us, and we’re just playing so well together as a team. I feel like we have a great momentum push but we still have to make sure we’re working hard and giving 100 percent effort.

Q. When you looked at the bracket, a lot of teams — Wichita State and Vanderbilt were 11 seeds, which seems strange. Arizona was a six (seed); they seem better than that. Did you look at the bracket and have any of those types of thoughts?
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, all over the bracket, you see teams, great teams that you would think would be ranked higher. It just goes to show how tough it is and how focused you have to be.

Q. How much do you keep an eye on some of the other teams during your season? Do you keep an eye on the Arizonas and Hawaiis and Wichita States?
PERRY ELLIS: You watch games every now and then but are not really super-focused on it, I would say. I mean, you’re watching games, all the good games.

Q. Is there any team in your bracket that really stood out and you went, ‘Wow,’ or not?
PERRY ELLIS: I would say not really. I really don’t pay much attention, just when you catch games on, but all in all we’re just really focused on our team.

Q. You mentioned you watched some of the other teams off and on. Is there a difference between watching games as a fan versus scouting a team?
PERRY ELLIS: I would say mostly just kind of watching the team and see how they play. I wouldn’t say I was really scouting early in the season.

Q. Coach Self said there’s still time to get better. What can get better this time of the year?
PERRY ELLIS: Like things defense; we got a lot better, but there are still little things that we can get better at. Just really focusing in on that and trying to fine tune everything.

Q. What is it about this team that makes it great?
PERRY ELLIS: The key thing is that we’re just playing so well as a team, sharing the ball and defending well. Those are all keys for a great team. I feel like we just keep playing how we’re playing, we’ll be fine.

Q. When you watch that bracket announcement, did you feel any different being a senior, knowing this is your last time and is there more of a sense of urgency?
PERRY ELLIS: I would say a sense urgency and excitement. I just want to make it my best; (being my) last go around, I just want to do anything I can to win.

Q. How different is this year for you? Last year you were dealing with injuries a good portion of the season. Do you feel like this is a fresh start?
PERRY ELLIS: Oh, yeah, definitely. Last year, not to make excuses, but it (knee) was bugging me a little bit. But I feel great now. I’m just ready to get after it.

Junior forward Landen Lucas

Q. Were you surprised not to be in the Midwest Region?
LANDEN LUCAS: It was a little bit of a surprise, but we still got the Des Moines site. So that was probably a little bit of a surprise, but the first couple games are where we expected them to be.

Q. Do you know anything about Chris Horton yet?
LANDEN LUCAS: I know he’s a great rebounder. He averages like 12 (rebounds) a game. So he’s got to be doing something to get that many rebounds. Obviously he’s going hard after rebounds and gets on the glass and he’s their leading scorer, too, I believe. It’s going to be a tough matchup. But I enjoy that. That’s what I take pride in. I’m looking forward to it.

Q. Do you enjoy that sort of matchup?
LANDEN LUCAS: Oh, yeah, I enjoy it. It gets me real engaged. I’m able to have a matchup of another player who is great, and so I’m looking forward to it and learning more about him these next couple games.

Q. Was there still excitement when the bracket was revealed? You kind of knew you would be a one seed.  Was there still excitement seeing your name pop up?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, it was. It’s a great honor to be the No. 1 seed, and to be the No. 1 overall seed is great. I think we were really excited just to see who was in our region and what type of teams we were going to have to play.

So we were looking forward to it and happy to see that we got the seed that we expected.

Q. What stands out to you about the teams in the region?
LANDEN LUCAS: There are tough teams. What stood out to me most was, looking at them, like, ‘Wow, that’s a tough region’ and looking at other regions, they are tough, too. This field is so deep that really no matter what region you’re in, there’s going to be tough teams everywhere. How it shakes up, I’m not sure, but there’s a lot of strong teams in our region, and I’m looking forward to some competitive games.

Q. Do you get a chance to keep an eye on many teams throughout the course of the season?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, we’ve been able to watch the majority of them. Personally, being from the West Coast, I pay attention to the Pac-12 a lot. So the Colorados, the Californias, Arizonas — I think we’ve got three in our region that I’ve seen more of than maybe most people, just because I pay attention to that kind of stuff.

So it is interesting, because we’ve seen them and seen all these teams have pretty successful years. So it’s going to be cool to see how it shakes out.

Q. What do you think about the Pac-12 as a conference this year?
LANDEN LUCAS: I think they are pretty underrated. I mean, it’s a great conference, and we’re going to see how they shake up once they get outside of the conference. But it’s a great conference.

It’s hard for people to really see them just because the games are usually on late in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and so people don’t really get a chance to see much of the Pac-12. But it’s a good conference with great players and I think they will be pretty successful this year.

Q. Do you root for your own league at all this time of the year?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, it’s a real pride thing, and I strongly believe that the Big 12 is the best conference in the country this year. I’m looking forward to seeing our teams advance, and maybe we get a matchup with one of them again. It would be fun.

Q. The No. 1 overall seed, 30 wins, how do you continue to play loose? Is there a level of pressure that you guys feel? How do you balance that all out?
LANDEN LUCAS: The pressure is going to be there for everybody. But I think that we’ve been through so much now. It started all the way back in the summer with the World Games and all the way up to now, the pressure really isn’t super high for us. We’ve got a good balance of different types of personalities on the team that can keep it loose and still keep us focused.

So I think we’re mentally prepared to handle the ups and downs of this tournament.

Q. It’s a much different scale, but do you think your experience in the World University Games will help you in the NCAA Tournament format?
LANDEN LUCAS: I think it will. That was big for us. And just going over there and facing different teams and having tough matchups and then having to prepare for another team right away, it put us in a good position. We’ve had some really good showings in the tournaments this year and some tough games that have all helped us get prepared for this moment. We are looking forward to using all of that when we go into the Tournament.

Q. Teams get remembered for what they do in March, and this team has not exactly performed great in March the last couple of years. Do you guys have something to prove?
LANDEN LUCAS: I think so. I’ve said this since I’ve been here: You come to Kansas to make deep runs in the Tournament. We haven’t done that and it’s been disappointing. I’m looking forward to doing that this year. We definitely have the team to do it.

It will be tough, but we’ve been tested. We’ve been battle-tested and we’re right in (the middle of) a really good win streak right now, and we’ll take that momentum into the Tournament. I’m looking forward to getting deep into the Tournament for the first time in my career since I’ve been here.

Q. You guys walked over from McCarthy Hall?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, we watched it in the movie room over there, so it’s pretty cool. Not many teams can walk downstairs from your room and have that waiting down there. So it was pretty cool. We had some family around and some of the coaches’ families.

Q. Were the guys excited about being No. 1 seed overall?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, I think we were. There was still a little bit of doubt, but I think that we’ve shown a lot and that’s a great accomplishment. That’s where you want to be. I mean, going to the Tournament, there’s no better position to be in.

And so now it’s just about taking that and everybody starting fresh now and it’s just about going and taking it game by game and advancing in the Tournament.

Q. When you said that there was a little bit of doubt; you won your regular season and you won your postseason, why do you think there was doubt?
LANDEN LUCAS: Until it officially gets announced, you just never know. Just like we thought we were in the Midwest, we ended up in the South. You just never know what can happen. We all were pretty comfortable with our résumé and whatnot, and it was just confirmed when we saw that we were the number one (seed) overall.

Bill Self

Q. What do you think of being the No. 1 overall seed?
COACH SELF: I think it’s great, but I don’t think it means much. I don’t know the difference in any of the No. 1 seeds. But I guess from the players’ perspective, it would have to mean something going into the Tournament that they have done so well that they are thought of being that.

But certainly, now it doesn’t mean anything. I was trying to think what it would be like, and it would be kind of like having a stellar high school career, and it’s over, but when you get to college, you’ve got to start all over again and go compete.

This is a fresh start. (The NCAA) Tournament’s a fresh start, and certainly for not only coaches, but players, and we’ve got to perform, starting now. All the past has done has put us in position to be a high seed, but certainly now it where it counts the most.

Q. In the South, Arizona is the sixth seed, Vanderbilt and Wichita State are 11 seeds; Iowa is a 7 seed. Do any or all of those seem out of whack to you?
COACH SELF: Well, I thought, if you are the No. 1 overall seed, it seems like to me there’s a lot of good teams in that particular region. Of course, there’s going to be good teams throughout all the brackets, but I would say that the South Region would be thought of by most of the pundits as being as strong as any of them, I would think.

Q. Are you surprised you’re not in the Midwest Region?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I was. I thought we would go to Chicago, but I’m fine with that. I think the only person that’s really disappointed with us is Jamari (Traylor). Jamari obviously would have loved to have gone back to Chicago but hey, Louisville is fine. I’ve never been to the Yum! Center and I hear it’s one of the best facilities in the country, and so we’ll be excited to be there, if we are fortunate enough to get there.

But certainly, we would have been excited to be anywhere, if you’re fortunate enough to win two games in the first weekend.

Q. Did you first meet Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos at Oklahoma State? If so, when was that? What are your feelings about him?
COACH SELF: I’ve known Dave for a long time. I think he was an assistant at Memphis when I was just getting started.

He’s been at Austin Peay now, it’s got to go 20-plus years that he’s been there, and certainly he’s always been a really well-respected, nice guy. His son is assistant coach at Missouri and was Kim’s (Anderson’s) assistant for a long time at Central Missouri.

I don’t know if you guys saw that special that he had yesterday, but it was very cool. His granddaughter is going through a real tough time right now and just had surgery. She’s in the hospital in New York City. CBS was able to conduct an interview that basically allowed her to tell her grandpa congratulations and all that stuff on his birthday. It was a really neat piece. Hopefully playing Austin Peay in some way, shape or form, will bring attention to the cause and what they are trying to do with his granddaughter.

I haven’t spoken to Dave, probably in a year or so. But certainly I’ve always thought he was first-rate. He always treated me very, very well when I was a young guy.

Q. When you see Austin Peay, what is the first thing you do?
COACH SELF: Oh, Chris had all the information for us immediately. And of course we know they are in Ohio Valley (Conference). I haven’t watched tape yet; I will. We’ll watch some tonight. We already divided the scouts before the selection even came out.

In some ways, you could say we caught a break because we don’t have to prepare for a play-in game, because a play-in game, you obviously don’t know who is going to win until late Tuesday night and therefore you just have the one day.

We’ll be able to look at them and see if they are doing anything unique that we need to spend a little extra time on.

Q. Chris Horton, their big man, just his numbers are impressive.
COACH SELF: I think it’s 19 and 12, is that right? Yeah, we’ll have to do a good job on him obviously. I’m not as familiar with personnel except the obvious. But we’ll study that.

We’ve actually defended some big guys pretty well for the most part. Then, of course, Devin (Williams of West Virginia) had his way with us yesterday. But we’ll be excited to play against them.

Q. You said you thought your region was tough. Four teams would have been ranked in the top three at some point including Kansas. Is that saying something about the NCAA or just about how tough your bracket is in particular?
COACH SELF: Who knows. The way that the committee does it, they do a great job. It’s not an S-Curve. You get to the third seed, okay, the top-rated third seed, you play closest to your home. The second-seated third seed plays the next closest to their home.

So sometimes it can get a little bit out of whack where it appears that, well, gosh, that’s a strong four. Well, that may be the way it’s just set up where the four falls that way. But I think it is a loaded region. But the fortunate thing in a loaded region is they have to play each other before we would have an opportunity to play them if we are fortunate to advance.

So it’s not like you’ve got to go through seven really good teams or seven teams that have been ranked in the Top 15 this year or anything in your region. You’ve got to win four games.

And I’m not concerned about the second weekend at all right now. I think whenever you get to a second weekend, you’re going to play good teams no matter what. I’m concerned about the first weekend and trying to win two games the first weekend, Austin Peay and then against of course Connecticut or Colorado. That’s all I’m concerned about because you’re going to play good teams in the Tournament, regardless.

Q. Have you ever had a year where you thought, that’s an easy region I’m in? You never hear a coach say that.
COACH SELF: No, no. Everybody, every coach, thinks they have gotten dealt a bad hand and our region is always the toughest. There are very few coaches out there nearly as objective as what I am when it comes to stuff like that (laughter). But they are all tough.

Q. A lot of your players have continually said they can do some things to get better. Does that come from you or have you found this team kind of taking that mentality?
COACH SELF: I think it’s probably a combination of both. I actually think they think that (they need to work on): unforced errors, defensive rebounding, stealing extra possessions. It’s amazing to me, we’ve been such a poor free throw shooting team and then in a game where we had to make free throws to win it, you make them, but it doesn’t always work out that way. It would be nice to be more consistent in that area.

I don’t know how you guys felt watching us, but I think in Kansas City, the first half of the first game, K-State, was good, and then the first half of the second game wasn’t good and we’re down one on a banked-in 40-footer. So sometimes you look at it like, ‘Well, we’re not doing very good,’ but you look up and say, ‘We’re only down one. That means we’re at least guarding. At least we’re rebounding.’

And then the second halves, we played very well against Baylor obviously and yesterday we played pretty well, too. So I think Kansas City was a good momentum push for us. But I still think our guys feel like there’s better play out there for us. Certainly, I do.

Yesterday, Frank (Mason III) didn’t score the ball; Wayne (Selden Jr.) did; Devonte’ (Graham) was great, and Perry (Ellis), he did (score) late. But I think our guys would say, ‘Well, that’s great, but we did a bad job on Devin (Williams).’ We didn’t handle their pressure nearly as good. I mean, there were so many opportunities for on two-on-ones and three-on-twos that we didn’t take advantage of that could have created more separation. I don’t think they are satisfied. I don’t, and I think that’s good.

Q. Can you see that in their reaction today, that there was not a lot of suspense for you guys, being the No. 1 seed?
COACH SELF: I don’t know, I think our team has got pretty good personality, but I didn’t think our guys acted too wild and crazy after the game yesterday. I think it was like, ‘Well, we’re going to be probably this, so, hey, this was great, so now let’s get ready for the next deal.’

Today, all those deals are staged; clap whenever they call your name. There’s been years past where we actually clapped but there was an eight-second delay. So it looks like we were total duds. And they changed it where it’s only a two-second delay now. So I think our guys were a little bit more into it, but that’s fine with me.

The big staged deal with all the fans and cheerleaders and everything like that, I don’t think that that plays nearly as well here, and wouldn’t mean as much to our guys. Not saying it’s wrong, but our guys are pretty much matter-of-fact when it comes to that.

Q. They looked like they enjoy playing more than celebrating.
COACH SELF: I think so. I think they are really having fun playing. They are pretty joyful out there right now. That’s what I talk to them about. That’s what we’ve got to continue and maintain and work to get better. But, don’t lose that feeling of ‘I’m going to have fun with this.’ I do think the guys are really enjoying each other.

Q. It’s going to come up, but the No. 1 seed versus No. 16 seed; the No. 1 seeds are 124-0.
COACH SELF: Well, it’s going to come up for everybody. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of all the other No. 1 seeds in the field. I mean, I’m Notre Dame a fan but I’m not a huge fan. I can’t really care that much. But if it’s 124-0 and if it’s 128-0 after the first game, then I’d still be okay with that.

So yeah, we need to make sure we don’t take anything for granted and be ready to play.

Q. How tough of a balancing act is it carrying the momentum streak you guys are on versus hitting the reset button going into the NCAA Tournament?
COACH SELF: I don’t know why we need to hit reset. We haven’t hit reset of late. I’d like for us to keep doing what we’re doing.

We took today off. We’ll go 45 minutes tomorrow, because that was a grind over there (Big 12 Championship in Kansas City), three days and the guys played a lot of minutes. We’ll have a normal practice on Tuesday and leave Wednesday.

So I don’t know that we need to do anything any different or getting in our guys’ minds. I think we just try to keep building on what we’ve been doing.

Q. When you saw Texas Tech selected, does that pretty much validate what the coaches have been saying all along about the strength the league?
COACH SELF: I was worried the way it was kind of coming down. Was it the next-to-last region? I think they are in the Midwest, aren’t they, if I’m not mistaken?

Yeah, I was really happy for them, and everybody reacted that way. The players weren’t in there at that time but the coaches were, I believe, and everybody reacted very favorably. They deserve it, but I do think it speaks volumes for our league.

Q. Do you like where you are heading into the Tournament?
COACH SELF: Yeah, we’re nicked up, but who is not nicked up after you do something for four or five months straight every day? We’ll get our batteries recharged. You know, Saturday, Devonte’ and Frank played a lot of minutes, and Wayne did, too. And Perry played a lot, too, those four did. But today (they get) off and tomorrow (will be) light. I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t have our legs back under us by Tuesday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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