No. 1 seed Kansas earns NCAA-record 28th consecutive tournament appearance
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship bracket revealed during today’s Selection Sunday Show on CBS.
The Jayhawks (28-4, 16-2 Big 12) now hold an NCAA-record of 28-straight appearances in the NCAA tourney after finishing the regular season with its 13th-straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title and a 5-0 record against top-10 teams.
KU will face the winner of a First Four matchup between North Carolina Central (25-8) and UC Davis (22-12) on Friday at the Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Should Kansas advance to the second round, the Jayhawks will face No. 8 seed Miami (21-11) or No. 9 seed Michigan State (19-14) on Sunday.
The winner of the Midwest Region’s First and Second Rounds in Tulsa will advance to play at Sprint Center in Kansas City, March 23 and 25, where the Jayhawks have already played four times this season.
The Final Four will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on April 1 and 3.
Kansas has been a No. 1 seed seven times under head coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks average a 1.9 seed in 14 seasons with the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Finalist on the sidelines.
KU is the overall No. 2 seed behind Villanova, in a complete list of all 68 seeds that the NCAA Selection Committee released after the bracket had been announced.
The Jayhawks are making their 46th NCAA Tournament all-time appearance. KU is 100-44 in NCAA postseason games, including 31 Sweet Sixteen appearances and 14 trips to the Final Four.
Kansas is one of six Big 12 Conference teams to earn an NCAA bid, joined by Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Kansas has a 10-2 record against the seven NCAA Tournament teams it has faced this season.
Visit KU’s schedule on KUAthletics.com for up-to-date tipoff times and TV information as details become available.
Q. What is your initial reaction to the Midwest Region of the bracket?
BILL SELF: It’s the same reaction I have every year, like, ‘are you kidding me?’ That’s what I initially thought. Obviously, I think it’s very difficult. But you look at it, I think everybody in the tournament could probably say the same thing – that it’s very difficult. It’s been my experiences in all the years, when you think you’ve kind of figured something out, it never plays out that way. So I’m not going to fret or be disappointed at all because I think everybody in the field, all the one seeds, would probably say – Villanova (for instance) – ‘Are you kidding me? Look who we’ve got to go against or whoever.’
So, we are happy we are a one seed. I’m not sure that’s a huge advantage. We’re obviously happy that we get to stay fairly regional with our travel, especially going down to Tulsa in the first weekend. Hopefully play well and win a four-team tournament, really it’s five team right now, but it will be a four-team tournament (after the First Four in Dayton). So that’s our only focus. I’m sure that’s the focus of everybody in the field.
Q. Will your assistants go scout live in Dayton?
BILL SELF: No, no. They don’t allow you to do that anymore. I’d have to double cheek to see if you can. Because in conference tournaments – that’s a great question, and I do not know the answer. But in conference tournaments or in tournaments you’re allowed to scout, you can be there for the game before and certainly in the NCAA Tournament you’re allowed to do that as well. But I don’t know about traveling. I’m not sure about that, because they eliminated travel to scouts several years ago, many years ago. So that’s something that we’ll look into.
I’m glad you brought that up. Josh, that’s the smartest thing you’ve ever asked in all the time that I’ve known you (laughing).
Q. What do you think of being the No. 2 overall and Villanova the No. 1?
BILL SELF: You know, I think that’s good. I’m not sure what it means now. But the guys certainly played at a high level for the most part all year long. Of course, we didn’t play particularly well in our last game and didn’t guard. I’m not sure that that’s the worst thing that happened to us either. Because it’s been my experiences sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be able to refocus your guys going into the tournament.
Q. Landen Lucas said today that you guys got better the last couple days in practice?
BILL SELF: I hope so. I hope so. When the coach acts like a maniac, you know you’ll probably try a little harder or what not. I do thing think there are some things that we have to tighten up. Our ball screen defense was bad against TCU, and obviously rebounding.
When you play four little guys like we did against TCU, you know, it’s an excuse if somebody outrebounds you. It’s never an excuse. You’ve got to be tougher and more competitive, and certainly defensive rebounding and ball screen defense is probably about the two most important things we have to get better at going into the tournament.
Q. Devonte’ Graham, no problems in practice?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he practiced yesterday and today. Yeah, absolutely no problems. I can’t comment to it if he’s sore at all, but no limitations at all.
Q. What do you know about your two possible opponents?
BILL SELF: Not much. I know Jim (Les), obviously, from going way back. Then of course he had probably one of the biggest wins of his coaching career against us when he coached Bradley, and he beat us in the opening round in Detroit, if I’m not mistaken.
So obviously they had a great year and won a huge game last night. I watched North Carolina Central play earlier in the year, and just flipping channels, and I could be wrong on this, I think it was Ohio State. I haven’t studied their schedule. And I’m thinking, gosh dang, they’re going to win this game at Ohio State, unless I’m totally screwed up, and I could be, so it may have been somebody else.
But I’ve watched them play, and I’ve got to go back or we’ve got to go back and really study them hard. You know, I do think it’s a little bit of a disadvantage not knowing who you’re going to play the first game. But obviously, the other teams have to do the same thing as well.
Q. Does it help them – I mean, obviously none of these teams have won, but does it help the winner to have played the game? It seems to help the 11 seeds and the 12 seeds?
A. I actually think that’s a pretty good point. I actually think in conference tournaments it helps too. Sometimes you come out, and – it didn’t really hurt us against TCU because we came out and we shot the ball real well early and got a double digit lead, so that wasn’t it in that particular game. But I do think sometimes having a win under your belt sometimes takes the pressure off a little bit.
Q. What do you think of the Big 12 teams in the Midwest Region?
BILL SELF: I was really, really surprised. Not saying wrong, but I was really, really, really surprised that they put – not that they put Iowa State in with us. I think that’s fine. But they did it if both teams advanced that it could happen in the Sweet Sixteen rather than later on. So that surprised me.
But they changed the format, if I’m not mistaken, and Larry (Keating) knows better than me, the format now is they’re going to keep conference teams away from each other until the Sweet Sixteen. So they followed their guidelines. But that one was a little bit of a surprise to me. Of course both teams have to play well the first week to even have a chance to play each other. But I thought that was kind of different.
Q. Is that about what you thought of the Big 12?
BILL SELF: Getting six in? Yeah, I was happy. I was pleasantly happy, not surprised at all. But the K-State situation, when USC got in, I thought, oh, my gosh, somebody is getting left out and I thought it could potentially be K-State, because I thought Syracuse would get in. That’s going by what the pundits have all said.
So I was really happy to see, and I know you may not believe this, but I was actually happy to see our league get another team. And the fact that he gets, you know, Bruce (Weber) gets a chance to play Danny (Manning) I think makes for an interesting twist as well in that play-in game.
Q. Landen Lucas said he was kind of going back and watching some old games. He said something he need noticed with the 2008 teams that when everyone checked into the game, they were really play ready to play at that moment. Is that something you noticed about your better tournament teams?
BILL SELF: First of all, we subbed a lot more back then. So there were a lot of opportunities to look ready to play. When guys are playing 35 minutes, you only take them out once a game. So that may be something.
You know, that may be true. When I watch old footage, I usually don’t watch how the body language is when we check in. That’s not my focus from 2008. But Landen’s ahead of the curve, so that may be something he studies.
Q. When you see a program like Syracuse out of the tournament or Michigan State playing an 8-9 game, does it provide more of a context about how consistent your team has been at being a high seed?
BILL SELF: You know, probably, it probably does. But we’ve been a high seed, and we’ve also not taken advantage of being a high seed too. So then you look in that potential match-up if you advance past the first game of Miami and Michigan State, and you say, well, didn’t Miami beat Duke? Then you look at Michigan State and say hasn’t he been to seven or eight Final Fours or whatever?
So I personally didn’t feel a ton of comfort or warm feelings by seeing that, because I think either way it’s a hard first weekend without question.
Q. You had that last year with UConn too. Landen Lucas said he thought it helped. It was good for your guys.
BILL SELF: You know what? One thing that I do think is good, and not that it will play out this way throughout the bracket if we’re fortunate enough to advance, but what is immediately in front of us are Power Five conference teams. If you look back at our – we’ve obviously lost different ways in the tournament. But you think about it, and you say, well, Missouri Valley has been a thorn in your side or Bucknell. The fact of the matter is that it’s going to be – the first game isn’t as well-known game, obviously. But if you’re fortunate enough to advance, you’re going to be playing people that obviously are well known, and players will recognize names on the other teams and that kind of stuff.
Q. Talk about your coaching tree in the tournament this season…
BILL SELF: We actually had a lot more coaches that were head coaches ten years ago and not as many now. But it’s exciting to me, because I think all of those guys have a serious chance to advance. I thought Jank (Tim Jankovich) really got a disservice by being a 6 seed. I think they’re a lot better than that. I watched them play and it’s hard for me to see how a team that’s ranked 12th in the country could be a 6 seed. It was very similar when we played Northern Iowa many years ago. I think they were 28-1 or 28-2 and they’re in the 8-9 game, and they’re ranked 13th in the country or whatever.
So I don’t think – I don’t know who they could potentially play. I think it’s Baylor, if I’m not mistaken, if they both win their first round game. That’s two top-15 teams in the country playing each other in the opening weekend.
Q. Has Danny Manning been in touch with you in the last hour about K-State?
BILL SELF: We text back and forth, but not details. No, we text back and forth about ‘congratulations’ and ‘I’m happy for you’ and all those things. It’s pretty remarkable.
You know, it’s one thing when you go into a league that the program is down, and in order to get in the NCAA Tournament, you’re going to have to win some games against Duke or Louisville or Syracuse or North Carolina or whoever it is, Florida State, in order to have a chance to play in it. And in three short years they’ve been able to do that, so their staff has done a great job.
Q. Any thought about the NCAA Tournament appearance streak of 28 straight berths?
BILL SELF: No, I haven’t thought of that. But Danny that may have been something he was colluding to a little bit, the consistency of having your team in the mix. There’s no guarantee you’re ever going to play well. There’s no guarantee you’re for sure going to advance. There are no guarantees. But it is nice to know you’re going to be in the game, and that’s something this program has been able to do consistently for a long time. Well before me.
Q. Have you ever been not taken it for granted, getting that NCAA Tournament berth?
BILL SELF: I’d say you take for granted sometimes if you know you’re getting in, but you don’t take for granted the rush, you don’t take for granted being excited about the seed or match-ups or who you’re going to play. We probably knew that we were going to be in the tournament by mid February, I would think. There would have to be a lot of things not happen well if you win your league not to get in.
So I think getting in sometimes you may assume if you have a good year, but you don’t ever assume or take anything for granted after that. It’s a special time.
I told our guys, I think this is the 7th time in 11 years we’ve been a 1 seed, if I’m not mistaken. Is that right? And the other three of the four we were a 2, and the crappy year we were a 3. That’s pretty consistent. That’s pretty consistent. But still it doesn’t – all you do, you bust your butt for months to put yourself in a position to maybe play to a little bit of what is perceived to be a competitive advantage. But the reality of it is it doesn’t ever play out that way.
There is not a competitive advantage. It’s all about match-ups. It’s all about lining up and outplaying the guy across from you, and certainly we know we have our hands full without question, but we’re excited to be in the mix. We are every year.
Q. Any extra special for you to be going back to Tulsa?
BILL SELF: No, I love Tulsa. But I’ve been to Oklahoma enough. I love my parents and everything, but to me all that means is more ticket requests and – I will tell you this – I’d much rather be in Tulsa than Oklahoma City, because we haven’t played very well in Oklahoma City. We actually played well in Tulsa last time we were there.
Q. What’s the team’s schedule like for the next week?
BILL SELF: Well, we practiced. We were off. We had the opportunity to take a day off a little sooner than expected this past week. So we were off Friday. We practiced pretty hard yesterday and today, and tomorrow we’ll go light. Then Tuesday, I don’t know what we’ll do yet, but will be something but probably not too strenuous. Then we’ll get right back into it on Wednesday.
We’re going to practice, but I just don’t know if it will be knockdown, drag-out-type practices. Probably till Wednesday.
Q. You’ve got some veterans, guys that were on that doorstep last year at the Elite Eight that kind of use that as motivation all the way back to Big 12 Media Day. Does that add anything to this run or what you’re preparing to do knowing those are the leaders of this team?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think so. I think will help. It can’t hurt. We do have good leadership, and certainly everybody who is going to play significant minutes has at least been through it a little bit with the exception of Josh.
I think this will be new for job shall Josh, too, being able to put himself in a position where, you know, here’s the reality of the tournament is you’ve got to have fun, you’ve got to play loose, and sometimes that’s difficult to do if you know that it’s a one and done type scenario. So the teams that are able to balance that to be intent, competitive, loose, fresh, still play with a purpose, those are the teams that usually play the best.
Last year we actually did a great job in the NCAA Tournament. We didn’t play well in our last game, but the first three games, I thought we really handled it well.
Q. What kind of response do you expect from Josh Jackson?
BILL SELF: Oh, I think he’ll respond favorably. He was down, obviously, and he understood. I mean, he’s a smart kid without question. I think he’ll respond very favorably moving forward.
Q. Was there some reassurance from the fact that in some big games like against Kentucky that he has shown?
BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah. I mean, hey, Josh Jackson has probably played about as consistently as any player in the country, I would say, the last two months. If I’m not – I could be wrong on this. But I think 17 out of 19 games or 18 out of 20, he scored 14 or more points, and that’s not what he does. What he does is all the other things, and then the points come as he does all the other things. So, yeah, I have every reason to believe that he’ll handle everything very well.
Q. Landen, at Media Day you talked about last year being so close to the Villanova game if you had one more shot. Here you are a No. 1 seed with a path that goes Tulsa, Kansas City, and then you’re so close. Are you looking forward to this?
LANDEN LUCAS: I am, yeah. After last year, all that I could think of was getting back to that spot and having another opportunity. Up until this point we put ourselves pretty much in the best position that we can to do that. Now we’ve just got to go out there and make it happen. Looking at everything, this is exactly where we want to be.
Q. Did Selection Sunday feel different for you today? You’ve been through so many of these. You’ve been a No. 1 seed before, but this is your senior year. Does it add anything different for you?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, a little bit. You know what to expect a little bit more now. You know just how focused you have to be for each game. So it was exciting for me, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there.
Q. You know how well KU fans travel. Are you expecting big contingents in Tulsa, and then if you make it, Kansas City?
LANDEN LUCAS: Definitely. Hopefully we’ve got a lot of Kansas fans out in Tulsa cheering us on. And the biggest thing about getting the seed that we got is that we play in Kansas City. Our fans are great, especially helping us when we’re going on runs or maybe coming back in the game. So we’re all looking forward to playing in front of them in Tulsa and seeing them out there.
Q. Every player, every coach will say “we’re just focusing on the first game.” But do you guys, as a group, allow yourselves to look ahead at who you might be playing just to have fun with it?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, when the brackets are first released, you look at everybody. You look at what the path would be, because you envision yourself and expect yourself to make it all the way. But I would say as soon as practice comes tomorrow, maybe even a little earlier than that, you start focusing on that first game and that first weekend. That’s a lot on the guys who have been there before, and a lot on the older guys to make sure we bring everyone along with us and we’re all just as focused.
But you give yourself a little time to look at everything, and then you quickly go back to focusing on game one.
Q. What were the last couple days like for you guys?
LANDEN LUCAS: I think it was really frustrating at first. Obviously, we wanted to be out there playing, especially guys won’t be here next year, and you’ve got a limited amount of games. We had a goal we wanted to accomplish, but we didn’t do that. But I think as soon as we got into practice, it turned into focusing on our next goal and knowing that we could use this time to get better, get healthier, get rested and get focused for the ultimate goal.
We tried to spin it as much into a positive as possible, and move forward after that.
Q. You’ve been through a few of these, obviously. How much does it change up your practice routine not knowing who you’re going to play in that first round?
LANDEN LUCAS: It does a little bit, but our coaches do a good job of at least making sure that we’re pretty well-informed on both teams, and then as soon as we do find out we’ll put a little bit more focus into that team. We’ll probably treat it the same way we would for the second game of a weekend, because we don’t really know until the night before, or the day before, who we’re going to play. Then we’ll just prepare for that specific team after that.
You know, we’ve just got to go and make sure that we’re on top of our game, and the rest will kind of handle itself.
Q. You talked about knowing what it takes and the focus that it takes in your players and all that stuff. Are you pretty confident that throughout the roster your guys are aware of that? I mean, you’ve got some young guys too.
LANDEN LUCAS: I’m very confident. Because I feel like the guys who are looked upon, like myself, Frank (Mason III) and Devonte’ (Graham), and all the guys that have been through this before, we understand just how important it is to get everybody on board, and we’re not accepting anything short of that focus, laser-sharp attention that is needed for each and every game.
So I’m confident in the whole team being focused and ready to go, and a lot of that comes on the older guys who have been through it, but we’ll get them ready.
Q. Is it motivation that Iowa State is in the same regional and Oklahoma State, and you could play them?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah, that would be fun. Like I said earlier, it’s cool to look at everybody in your bracket to see who you could potentially play. But we know in order to play any of those guys, we’ve got to make it out of weekend one, and we’ve got some tough match-ups. So we know just how important it is to focus on this first weekend.
Q. In potential opponents Michigan State and Miami, you’ve got a former national champion, big-time coach, all that stuff. Is that just the way the game’s going? Does that seem weird to you or do you welcome that challenge?
LANDEN LUCAS: I think we welcome it. I think it’s good for us because in that 8-9 game to have two teams that have such big names and great history to them, it’s good for us. I think last year it helped us go out there motivated, ready to go. You could tell in that first half, I was watching the game not too long ago, and we were out there juiced up, ready to go, getting stops. And we should be either way.
But it doesn’t hurt at all when you’ve got a big-name team you’re lining up against. So we welcome it, and we’re definitely looking forward to that match-up.
Q. Coach (Self) wasn’t all that pleased on the defensive end of the floor in the last game and he said you he had to shore things up for a long tournament. What would it take to shore things up and what are the keys to that defensively?
LANDEN LUCAS: Well, we’ve been working on that a lot in practice. Really, it’s making sure everybody’s on the same page with things. We’re communicating well. We’re in the right position. (It’s) Just small, basic stuff that you can fix in practice and work on. Then the last thing would be that you pay attention to the scouting report and understand that. And that’s important moving forward, because we might not have seen too many games of the teams we’re playing. So it’s important to know their personnel and what they like to do, because that could be a big factor in these upcoming games.
Q. Do you know anything about those two teams, N.C. Central and UC Davis?
LANDEN LUCAS: (We) Just got a brief packet on them, and we’ll learn a lot more moving forward, tomorrow. They’re good teams. They made the tournament. It’s going to be fun for us just to get out there and play the game coming off of this last game. So we’re looking forward to whichever team it is we end up playing and learning about them. We’ll take it as seriously as you can, and I’ll make sure that we will go into the game juiced up and ready to go.
Q. What do you think about Villanova being the No. 1 overall and Kansas 2?
LANDEN LUCAS: I don’t really know what the big difference is. I am happy that we got in the Midwest Region; that’s what we were looking for. Other than that, I haven’t paid too much attention to that other stuff, or the importance of it.
Q. Is there any incentive to get back to Kansas City just because of what happened there this past week?
LANDEN LUCAS: There’s always enough incentive to progress forward in the tournament and not lose. But if it adds anything, we know that getting past this first weekend and being able to play in front of our fans for a chance to go to the Final Four is huge. That’s what we played (for) all regular season, trying to set ourselves up for. Now we know that we’re a weekend and two good games away from making that happen.
So it definitely is fun for us to have that option, and it would be cool for us to get back there.
Q. Is that a reminder that Kansas City offers no guarantees?
LANDEN LUCAS: Oh, this last game? I’d say so, but it can’t hurt at all. It can only help. But I think wherever we played, I’d be confident in our team against anybody. We’ve gone into hostile environments and won. All it would do is just help us out and benefit us.
Q. You said you re-watched the UConn game recently. How did that come about? What motivated you to do that?
LANDEN LUCAS: Well, I just recently was watching not only our games, but I tried to go back and find as many games from the ’08 team and some of the past teams. Not to compare 100 percent, but just to kind of see how they went about things. Just kind of get a vibe for what made them so good.
It’s fun because I picture us doing the same things they were able to do. It’s cool to watch those games and really kind of see what made them so good.
Q. What did you discover?
LANDEN LUCAS: They were a tough team. If they were ever down in games, they quickly got it turned around. When they went on a run, their defense was unbelievable. They were flying around. They were all on the same page. I’ve seen flashes of some of the stuff that they’ve done from us (this year), but the flashes are a couple minutes long, and I felt like they did a good job extending those.
I watched a couple of their tournament games and everybody was ready to go. I didn’t really see anybody who would come in off the bench or start the game who wasn’t prepared for that match-up. So that’s how we have to be. Because if one or two people aren’t on board, then we’re not going to be able to advance.
Q. Do you think it helps the team getting a few extra days of rest, in retrospect?
LANDEN LUCAS: Yeah. Like I said, I think we all would have rather been playing. But looking at it (now), it definitely helped in another way, because we were able to rest. I know the next day I woke up and my body was pretty sore. I was watching the guys play on TV and I thought, “Well, okay, at least I do get to rest.”
And I think the fact that we ended up getting the (No.1) seed and the place that we wanted (Tulsa) originally kind of helps us with that and (makes us) feel a little bit better about things. The rest has definitely helped and the extra practice time has also. These last couple of days we got to get better and that’s always a good thing.
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