NCAA Tournament: Kansas Prepares for Wichita State Rematch
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Presented with a perfect opportunity to avenge the loss that ended last year’s season, the No. 14 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks will play host to Wichita State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament inside Allen Fieldhouse, Friday at 6:30 p.m.
vs. Wichita State (Kansas leads, 39-13): Kansas leads Wichita State 39-13 all-time in a series that dates back to 1975. From 1983-95, the Jayhawks and Shockers played each other at least once per year and did so again from 1998-2002, and KU won the last six-consecutive meetings in that span. KU and WSU last squared off on Sept. 10, 2002 in Wichita, Kan., until the Shockers ended the Jayhawks’ six-match win streak in the series to end KU’s 2012 historical campaign.
FOLLOW THE JAYHAWKS
Fans can listen to radio play-by-play on the Jayhawk Digital Passport, found under the Fan Central tab on KUAthletics.com free of charge. Aaron Berlin will have the call.
All three NCAA Tournament matches from Lawrence will air on ESPN3.com, the only First and Second Round host site to broadcast the matches. Leif Lisec and Jill Dorsey-Hall will provide the analysis. Fans can also monitor the action on Live Stats or by following @KUVolleyball on Twitter.
- Kansas completed its mission of doing what no other Jayhawk volleyball team has – finish second in the Big 12 Conference. The Jayhawks did so with a 12-4 league record, second only to defending national champion Texas, who finished 16-0.
- KU played in front of nearly 4,000 fans on Nov. 26 when the program hosted a Fan Appreciation Night against Denver inside Allen Fieldhouse – the seventh-largest crowd to watch a KU home match.
- KU is 29-5 dating back to its 2011 Senior Day match and the Jayhawks are 10-3 overall at home in 2013.
- The Jayhawks collected their first back-to-back 1,600-kill seasons for the first time since 2004 and 2005.
- KU has moved up in the AVCA Top-25 Poll every week for the last five weeks. Last week Kansas was ranked No. 21 (11/25), marking the seventh week Kansas has been on the national poll this season. The Jayhawks have been on the poll or receiving votes in 20 of the last 23 weeks.
- Kansas finished the regular season at No. 13 in the NCAA RPI (12/2). The Jayhawks have not been outside the RPI’s top-20 in the last two years.
- The Jayhawks played 14 matches against 10 teams included in this season’s NCAA Tournament field, going 7-7 in those matches.
- Kansas ranks in the top-30 in the NCAA in kills (14.46, 14th NCAA), assists (13.54, 13th NCAA) and hitting percentage (.260, 30th NCAA). Additionally, KU’s 2.59 blocks per set are 46th-best in the country. (NCAA Stats Released: 12/2)
KANSAS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
2003 (1-1): In its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance Kansas swept Long Beach State in the first-round match in Malibu, Calif. In the second round, top-seeded Pepperdine won its 25th-straight match that season to knock KU out of the tournament.
2004 (1-1): Kansas defeated Santa Clara in four sets in the first round in Seattle, Wash. In the second round, KU came back from an 0-2 deficit but fell in five sets to Washington.
2005 (0-1): After a 15-15 season, an injury-depleted Jayhawk roster fell in the first round to UCLA, 3-1.
2012 (1-1): Posting the best winning percentage in program history (.788), Kansas earned a No. 11 overall seed and first and second round hosting rights. The Jayhawks welcomed more than 8,000 fans to Allen Fieldhouse over the two-day tournament, which saw KU defeat Cleveland State in the first round and fall to Wichita State in the second.
DANCING IN THE FIELDHOUSE
- 48 NCAA Tournament games have been played in AFH, 37 of which were men’s basketball
- Allen Fieldhouse hosted an NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional Championship eight times from 1956-78, which still ranks as the fourth most “Elite 8” games hosted in one venue all-time.
- 1997 was the last time AFH hosted an NCAA Tournament game in any sport until the Kansas volleyball team hosted the first and second rounds of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Kansas was dealt a stacked deck when the NCAA Selection Committee picked its set of teams for the Lawrence site. As the No. 1 seed in the pod, Kansas will square off against No. 4-seeded Wichita State on Friday. The Shockers are hardly a prototypical four-seed. WSU tied for the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference crown before locking up the automatic bid when it won the MVC Tournament. At 28-6 overall, the Shockers’ winning percentage (.824) ranks only behind College of Charleston’s .833 (RPI: 65) and Jacksonville’s .909 (RPI: 89). In the most recent RPI release (12/2), Wichita State checks in at No. 35. The No. 4 seed closest to that in this year’s tournament is UC Santa Barbara (RPI: 60).
Aside from WSU, Kansas (RPI: 13) is welcoming Creighton (RPI: 16) and Arkansas (RPI: 36) to give the Lawrence bracket an average RPI of 25. The Madison, Wis., bracket is the next closest with Wisconsin (RPI: 15), North Carolina (RPI: 22), California (RPI: 38) and Milwaukee (RPI: 77).
PREPARATION FOR REDEMPTION
All three teams joining the Jayhawks in Lawrence this weekend got the best of Kansas in their most recent meetings. Focusing on one match at a time, the Jayhawks have to get past memories of last year’s loss to WSU in order to advance.
Vs. Arkansas: In September, Kansas played 10 sets against Arkansas in the span of three days. In Fayetteville, Kansas came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Razorbacks in five (9/5). Two days later (9/7), KU played Arkansas in Lawrence, and again KU came back from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth set, but the Razorbacks came away with the 3-2 victory.
Vs. Creighton: Just three days after Kansas’ heavy workload against Arkansas, the Jayhawks traveled to top-25 Creighton. After dropping the first set in Omaha, the Jayhawks’ 13 kills and zero errors in the second frame came out to a .650 attack percentage, KU’s highest in a set since Aug. 28, 2006 when the Jayhawks hit .739 in the second set against Alabama A&M. The momentum didn’t last, however, as Kansas lost the next two sets for the 3-1 loss.
Vs. Wichita State: One of the few negative memories from KU volleyball’s historical 2012 season occurred on the last day of the season (12/1/12). Looking for the program’s first trip to the NCAA Sweet 16, KU won the first set against in-state foe Wichita State, but the Shockers came back to upset the No. 1 seed on its home floor in four sets.
TWICE AS NICE
For the second-straight season, head coach Ray Bechard was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year, the league office announced (12/2). In his 16th season, Bechard becomes the only coach in program history to earn the distinction in back-to-back seasons and just the third overall at KU. KU’s all-time winningest coach, Bechard is one of five league coaches to win the award multiple times and third to do so in back-to-back seasons.
SETTER OF THE YEAR
Senior Erin McNorton, the conference’s assists leader for the last two seasons, was unanimously voted the Big 12 Setter of the Year (12/2). The Dallas native currently leads the Big 12 for the 14th-straight week with 12.13 assists per set, which ranks fourth in the nation. McNorton’s accuracy, consistency and decision making powered Kansas to a .260 attack percentage to close out the regular season – the best in program history. Her 2,955 career assists rank sixth all-time at KU, an amazing feat considering she has started just 63 matches in four years.
ALL-BIG 12 BIG TIMERS
Four Jayhawks were named to the All-Big 12 First Team (12/2), doubling KU’s previous season-high of First Team award winners (two, 2012). Senior Erin McNorton, along with redshirt senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc and junior outside hitters Sara McClinton and Chelsea Albers, were each recognized on the First Team. Tayler Soucie, the fifth-best blocker in the league, was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
Although KU snapped a four-match win streak in its last outing at Oklahoma on Saturday, the Jayhawks may actually have momentum on their side. Dating back to the 2011 season (a 64-match span), Kansas has lost back-to-back matches only once, which ironically was to Arkansas (9/7) and at Creighton (9/10). After that loss to the Bluejays, Kansas rattled off 10-straight wins.
SCOUTING WICHITA STATE (28-6 Overall, 15-3 Missouri Valley)
Led by Chris Lamb in his 14th season as head coach, Wichita State was voted to finish first in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason poll after returning 10 letterwinners and five starters from a team that went 24-10 overall in 2012 and advanced to the first Sweet 16 in school history – at the expense of Kansas. The Shockers picked up where they left off this fall, winning 11 of their first 12 matches in non-conference play before rolling through the MVC slate with a 15-3 record. WSU ended the regular season tied with Northern Iowa for the Valley crown. Making its seventh-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, WSU claimed the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.
Much like the Jayhawks, the Shockers are powered by a core of senior leadership. Senior middle blocker Ashley Andrade and senior setter Chelsey Feekin earned MVC Co-Player of the Year honors, while Andrade went on to clinch MVP accolades in the conference tournament, as well. Andrade leads the potent offense with a .468 attack percentage thanks to a team-high 385 kills offset by a mere 66 errors. Feekin dishes out the offense, which hits for a league-best .281 attack efficiency, with 10.59 assists per set. She leads the team with 12 double-doubles on the year and is second only to redshirt freshman libero Dani Mostrom (3.50) in digs per set with 2.48. At the net, Andrade is also a force to be reckoned with, as she blocks a MVC-best 1.32 blocks per set.
Senior outside hitter Sam Sanders checks in behind Andrade with 289 kills (2.43/set), while senior middle Elizabeth Field ranks second to Andrade with 0.79 blocks per set. As a unit, WSU (.281) has the upper hand in attack percentage over Kansas (.260), but KU’s Big 12-leading 14.46 kills per set ranks higher than Wichita State’s 13.77.
HEAD COACH RAY BECHARD
On being voted Big 12 Coach of the Year:
“It was a good day yesterday for everybody involved in the program. I’m just happy to be part of this group and I feel good about this team, how hard we’ve worked and the way they care about each other. Sometimes I know the individual awards have to come, but I think the group wants to do things the team has never done before. I’m happy for everybody that got recognized, but what we will remember the most is that we’ve had a really good season so far and we have the opportunity to make it a great season if we can go on a little run here. That’s where our focus, our attention and energy will be.”
On the direction of the program after back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances:
“Hopefully we can continue to build a culture of success over time. The last couple of years have been a huge step in the right direction and you build tradition. We’ve got a number of traditions here at the University of Kansas and in the athletic program. We want volleyball to continue to be one that is thought of as a successful program with a winning tradition. We’re on our way and now we want to be significant in how we end our season this year.”
On the Lawrence bracket:
“It’s stacked. You trade Creighton in for Cleveland State, and nothing against Cleveland State, but that’s an upgrade. Our first round opponent last year was Cleveland State, and this year it’s Wichita State, so it’s great for our region. It’s a great challenge for our team. There are four really good volleyball teams that have had really great moments this year. From a fan perspective it’ll be outstanding volleyball with great teams, and whoever comes out of this four-team pod will be deserving and will represent this first-round site well.”
On the playing the No. 35 RPI team as a four seed:
“You could throw all of the seeds in a hat, and I think you could get an argument either way for how they would come out. The fact that you can get three teams that all can drive or four teams that are all within this radius and have all had such good years, that means there’s tremendous volleyball in the region. You’re representing some good volleyball conferences and I think it speaks well of the quality of coaching in the region and players in the region. It’s exciting for volleyball fans in this area.”
On the match-up against Wichita State:
“We felt like there was a good chance that we could play them later whether it was in Columbia, Mo., Lincoln, Neb., or here so you just don’t know. They’ve established a very good volleyball tradition. They’ve been to the tournament for seven-straight years. Their league has been at different levels at different times, but there are good volleyball teams in their league. The fact that they’re from our state and two hours down the road isn’t as significant as the fact that they’re good and have been good. It’s our first opportunity to advance in the NCAA Tournament. We have all of the respect in the world for them. Obviously, last year they came in here and played at a high level and we just have to respond to that. I know they’re going to come in here and play well again and I’m sure our team will give a much better effort than maybe we did last year.”
On the emotions of facing their elimination opponent from last year:
“Our preparation is going to be the same this week. We’ll have the same routine; we’ve had a pretty decent level of success throughout the year. Now it’s one and done, but it’s one and done for all teams, not just us. They’ve got an experienced team with a bunch of seniors on it that want to extend their season, and we’ve got an experienced team with a bunch of seniors that want to extend our season, too. There’s pressure on both sides and you get to this point of the year and focus on what your individual responsibility is and don’t try to look too far ahead, just stay in the moment and give your best effort and see where that takes you.”
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.