Selection Sunday: No. 4 seed Kansas to meet No. 13 seed Northeastern in Salt Lake City
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Picked as a No. 4 seed for the fifth time in program history, the Kansas men’s basketball team will make its 30th-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The nation’s longest-active streak and the best all-time will start against the No. 13-seed Northeastern Huskies in the Midwest Region at approximately 3 p.m. (CT) on Thursday, March 21, in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Kansas has posted a 25-9 record up to this point in the season and went 12-6 in Big 12 play, good for a third-place finish. The Jayhawks are coming off a run to the Big 12 Championship title game, which they lost, 78-66, to Iowa State. The unveiled bracket paired Kansas against Colonial Athletic Tournament champion Northeastern (23-10, 14-4) in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
This marks the 19th-straight season that the Jayhawks have earned a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament and the first time KU has been a No. 4 seed since 2006. In head coach Bill Self’s 16 seasons, KU has never been seeded lower than fourth. Kansas has been a No. 4 seed four times prior to this year (1994, 2001, 2004 and 2006). The Jayhawks are 7-4 all-time as a No. 4.
The Jayhawks and Huskies have never met in men’s basketball.
ABOUT KANSAS (25-8, 12-6 Big 12)
Overall, the Jayhawks are making their 48th NCAA Tournament appearance. KU is 107-46 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, including 31 Sweet 16 appearances and 15 trips to the Final Four.
The Jayhawks finished the 2018-19 regular season with a 25-9 record against the nation’s toughest schedule, which included eight victories against top-25 opponents. In conference tournament action, Kansas defeated Texas and West Virginia to advance to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship final against Iowa State. The Jayhawks fell to the Cyclones 78-68 in the championship game on March 16. Against the No. 1 RPI conference and the nation’s toughest schedule, Kansas collected 11 Quadrant 1 victories.
Kansas is one of six Big 12 Conference teams to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. The six teams are the fourth-most to be representing a conference in the tournament. In all, KU faced 14 NCAA Tournament teams in 2018-19.
Self guided his Jayhawks through a nonconference schedule that included Michigan State, Vermont, Marquette, Tennessee, Wofford, Villanova, New Mexico State, Arizona State and Kentucky, all tournament teams. Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and Sporting News Second Team All-American Dedric Lawson is the team’s top scorer and rebounder, averaging a double-double at 19.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg.
ABOUT NORTHEASTERN (23-10, 14-4 CAA)
The Huskies head to the NCAA Tournament after claiming the Colonial Athletic Tournament title and finishing second in the CAA regular-season race with a 14-4 record.
Four Huskies score in double figures and are led by redshirt-senior guard Vasa Pusica, who scores 17.8 ppg. The All-CAA First Team selection shoots 49.7 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from 3-point range. Pusica is one of three Huskies to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. NU takes over 25 3-pointers per game and makes 9.8 per contest. Junior guard Brace Bolden is the team’s top rebounder at 6.0 per game and adds 10.0 ppg.
Northeastern is led by head coach Bill Coen. Coen is 224-96 in his 13th year in Boston.
Aside from a 14-4 conference slate, NU will enter postseason play in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, which includes wins in 12 of its last 13 outings. The Huskies’ last loss came on Feb. 16 in overtime at College of Charleston, 88-79.
Head Coach Bill Self
His thoughts on KU’s tournament draw:
“Hard. My initial thoughts are hard and it doesn’t have anything to do with what could potentially be the second weekend. I haven’t studied Northeastern yet but I know Bill some and have great respect for him but I don’t know their personnel yet. I know they have four guys who will shoot it any time their open which is hard for us and we will have to tighten some things up. Whoever wins our game gets the winner of Auburn and New Mexico State and to me, that’s a hard matchup. Auburn is as hot as anybody and New Mexico State took us to the last possession in the Sprint Center which is technically a home game for us so I think that it’s hard. But our focus is trying to win two games this weekend. You have a situation in Northeastern who didn’t win their league so they were the two seed in their conference tournament but still get a 13 seed out of the Colonial. You think historically those would be 15 or 16 seeds and that’s not the case at all which tells you that conference was good and tells you that these guys can play.”
On if playing Iowa State’s four guard lineup will help in any way against Northeastern:
“In theory yes, but we prepared to play Iowa State with one walkthrough so it wasn’t like we practiced to play Iowa State. We practiced last week for Texas with actually a thought we would play Texas Tech. It will probably help more than it would hurt but hopefully we’ll be better prepared to be better at it with three days of practice.”
If he was surprised that KU was chosen for the Midwest region:
“Yes, almost shocked that we’re in the Midwest. I like that we’re in the Midwest but it would have been nice if we could have driven to Des Moines or Tulsa but usually when you’re a four seed you don’t get everything catered to you like we have sometimes in the past because we’ve been a one seed. But I like that we’re in the Midwest and I’m not going to think about this but if favorites win according to seed, having North Carolina and Kentucky in one regional sounds more like a Final Four than a regional but a lot of things have to happen for all teams for that to occur. We’re just focused on a two game tournament and can’t think past that.”
On if he’ll look back at times previous teams were a four seed:
“I don’t think it matters, I don’t know that it would do any good to watch tape or anything. We were a four the year we lost to Bradley (2006) and a four the year we beat Illinois Chicago (2004) and that’s the only time we’ve been fours if I’m not mistaking. There may be something to that though, we were a four and lost to Bradley starting two freshman and three sophomores so as young as we are there are probably somethings we can think back to that could help some of the intangible things that don’t have to do with basketball.”
If it’s fair that KU could reach Kansas City as a four seed:
“I’m not going to get into that but I would say that to me if you win two games in the tournament you know you’re going to play a really good team and it’s probably going to be a neutral deal. This wouldn’t be a neutral deal though if everyone advances. You could throw Iowa State in if they advance and they’d have more fans there than anybody. I still think what wins more than anything is talent and talented players playing together at the right time. We had an opportunity to play Carolina the first weekend in Kansas City in 2013 and that was a pretty significant advantage for us at that particular time but that is getting way ahead of what we should be thinking about.”
On having such a young team:
“You would think going to a Final Four last year you would return some experience like Villanova returned Booth and Paschall, those are guys that have won two national championships and been through the riggers but people are talking about how much they lost. I mean they lost a ton and he we are not by all guys graduating or leaving early and we have only two guys who have participated in the tournament in Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot. This is new for everybody but the biggest thing will be to have fun and enjoy it. It’s a reward for guys doing a good job on every team throughout the season and we will approach it that way and hopefully play as free as we possibly can.”
If having a younger team with limited experience could be an advantage:
“I think with having a one seed whether you want to admit it or not it comes with pressure because everybody else is playing with house money and you believe you have to do something. It could help us and I’ll certainly look at it from that perspective but when you’re a lower seed the competition is greater too at least in the first round game. I’m excited for our guys to see how they react and like I said yesterday, we did a lot of things pretty well yesterday that didn’t come out looking well. If you guys ever want to study a stat and we haven’t tracked this but moving forward we will, how many points they scored with under five seconds on the shot clock compared to us. I’ll bet you it was 25-6 or something like that yesterday. There are somethings that we need to do a better job of obviously but we actually guarded them decent for 25 seconds on most shot clocks and eliminated transitions and got the ball where we wanted for the most parts. One of the announcers I was just texting said we were limping home and I can see how somebody could see that if they look at the scores of Texas Tech and Oklahoma but this team has won eight of our last 11 and that’s after going through some stuff and we’re close to getting it even though we haven’t quite gotten it yet. That tells me that there is still a great opportunity for our best to still be in front of us.”
On already playing four teams in KU’s region:
“That could help us some but it only helps if you play them. We have a lot of work to do before we can play those folks.”
Thoughts on the Big 12 getting six teams in:
“I wasn’t surprised at all but I was disappointed. I think that VCU losing and Saint Mary’s and Oregon winning probably hurt Texas and TCU’s chances. I’m disappointed because our league was better than just 60% but in this year I’m not sure we would have gotten 80% but I think we could have gotten one more. I’m disappointed for them because they had good years but to me it’s kind of a strange year because you have all the power leagues, none of them got as many as they were projected to get.”
On the ACC getting three number one seeds:
“Has it happened before? It may be the first time ever but if you really study it I think the committee got it right. If Kentucky had won their tournament I think they could have been a one seed and deservedly so but it’s hard to put a team that’s a number one overall seed in the tournament and have another team that beat them two out of three and the one they lost was on a last second tip in or they could have beat you three times. I think they got it right in terms of the teams that were the best from start to finish. There were some teams that weren’t there like Michigan State or Tennessee. Anybody on the two line can beat anyone. You’re always going to have someone disappointed and I don’t think it’s a slam dunk but I do think they got it right.”
RS-Junior F Dedric Lawson
On being in the Midwest Region and potentially getting back to Kansas City to play:
“I didn’t know it until the commentator said it. He said something like, ‘With a couple of wins, Kansas could be (playing) in Kansas City.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ We’ve just got to win these games and get back home. We need that energy to boost us and help us move forward.”
On being deserving of having a chance to play in Kansas City again:
“Yeah, I guess so. We didn’t ask anybody for it. It’s really out of our control.”
On the rest of the Midwest Region bracket; (North) Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas:
“Yeah, I did see it, but it’s a two-game tournament come this weekend. The only thing I found out that is very important for us is that Northeastern is who we are playing and hopefully we’ll have a chance to play New Mexico State or Auburn.”
On if he sent brother P.J. (at Kentucky) a text:
“No, I haven’t sent P.J., a text. We’ve both got enough to worry about. But hopefully we meet again.”
On how big-time the incentive of “coming home” to play is:
“That will most definitely give us a little more edge to play for, to give these (Jayhawks) fans something they want. The fans feel very comfortable at the NCAA (Tournament) games. I know they’ll come out and show their support. I would very much like to have that for them.”
On how yesterday’s game outcome felt today upon waking up:
“We had film, so it (my mind) was definitely on basketball and on things we can do better. Coach (Self) had a little talk with us, just telling us how things were going to happen (during the Selection Show and beyond). So the anticipation was definitely there; just waiting to see where you land and who your opponent is, or who your possible opponents are, is very intriguing. You just want to get out there and start playing again.”
On getting advice from teammates who’ve been through the NCAA Tournament with Kansas before:
“Coach talked about some of the things about playing in the NCAA Tournament (that are different); longer timeouts, longer media coverage, and things like that, but other than that, I haven’t asked anyone.”
On how he thinks the team is playing going into the tournament:
“I think we are playing good. Yesterday, of course, we lost. I just think we didn’t make shots. But from a standpoint of guys competing out there, and just trying to take a challenge, I think, for the most part, in our games we try our best and we had guys’ effort that was there, the shots just weren’t falling. I’m definitely proud of this team and am looking forward to a successful run (in the NCAA Tournament).”
On the entire team believing it has a NCAA Tournament run in them and where that confidence comes from:
“Most definitely (we are confident of a long tournament run). Just knowing that that guy beside you is not going to let you down. That everyone in the locker room is going to go out there and play to the best of their ability, no matter if shots are falling. As long as you give your best effort, and things like that, that’s part of the game – you’re not going to make every shot. Just competing is all you can ask for.”
Freshman G Devon Dotson
On having to wait awhile to see their name on the bracket:
“Yeah, it was like 20 minutes I think, but it was great to see. Just seeing the matchups, who we may potentially play, because this is a great experience.”
On if that wait is hard, even when you know your team is in the tournament:
“It’s not a hard wait. I know we had a tough season, but we are still just appreciative that we got the four seed and we’re in the tournament.”
On what he was looking forward to seeing the most:
“I would say just seeing what day we would play; Thursday or Friday and the location, seeing where they were going to send us out to.”
On playing another team that plays four guards after playing ISU yesterday:
“Yeah, that definitely helps (us). I read some stuff about Northeastern before I came over here. Like you said, they play four guards, they have a pretty good scorer in Vasa (Pusica). So the Iowa State game should help us a lot. We just have to start preparing for them (Northeastern) now.”
On his thoughts of going to Salt Lake City, Utah to play:
“I’ve never been there before. I heard it’s a great city. It should be fun, playing Northeastern out there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
On if he knows what to expect in the NCAA Tournament from his previous experiences:
“Yeah, it’s not new. Like you said, from AAU ball to traveling from city to city (is not new). But it’s different from the aspect of winning; it’s one and done. It’s win or go home. So it should be fun. I’m looking forward to the tournament.”
On if the incentive of playing in Kansas City adds anything to the first two rounds:
“Yeah, it’s always great it see the ‘what ifs’ or possibilities, but our focus is that first game against Northeastern. We’re just going to do everything we can to prepare for them and just take it one game at a time.”
On if the possibility of playing in Kansas City was surprising to him:
“I wouldn’t say it was too surprising, but that’s where they put us and I feel like that helps us out a lot. The fans are right here, so that should be a big help.”
On the state of the team right now:
“I feel like we are playing pretty well. Obviously, yesterday we couldn’t pull it off, but I feel like we competed tremendously the past three days. Shots just didn’t fall yesterday. I feel like we are in a great state right now and we’ve just got to get ready for the tournament.”
On takeaways from playing in Kansas City the last three days:
“Yeah, definitely, I think it helps us out, prepares us for the (NCAA) tournament. Just playing on that type of court, in that type of environment. It gets us acclimated to what we’re going to see in the tournament. So it definitely helped out a lot. We’re pretty young, but I feel like we’re prepared for the moment.”
The winner of (4) Kansas vs. (13) Northeastern will advance to play the winner of (5) Aubrun and (12) New Mexico State on Saturday, March 23, also in Salt Lake City.