Now, the stakes start getting higher as the Jayhawks hope to make this a magical postseason.
It all begins Thursday at 11:30 a.m. (CT) when the No. 1 Jayhawks
(29-2) play their first game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship
against Texas Tech (17-14) at Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Red
Raiders beat Colorado, 82-67, on Wednesday to advance to the
KU coach Bill Self likes the way his team is playing, but is concerned
the Jayhawks have less margin for error this postseason with their
overall lack of experience, compared to say, the 2008 national
"Maturity would be a big thing," Self said. "We are the 265th-youngest
team in America. That team (2008) was experienced at all spots and all
times. They had been through it and been to an Elite Eight and done
some other things that the majority of these guys have not experienced.
... This team is balanced and hard to guard, but I don't think from a
maturity or experience standpoint that we are quite where that team was
"If we are not at our magic level, then anybody can beat us," Self
added. "For instance if we are not mature enough to handle
distractions, if we are off a little bit, that could be enough to go
home right there. To me that is one thing that the 2008 team was so
good at. That was a focused group."
Still, Self said that "we are a lot better basketball team than we were
last year. Last year if one guy out of two did not play well, we
probably did not have a great chance to win. This year it has been
proven that we probably have enough depth and balance that different
guys could step up different nights."
Indeed, KU has many more weapons than it did last year with the likes
of the improved twins Marcus and Markieff Morris and freshman sensation
Xavier Henry. While KU has better balance this season, Self needs his
big stars — Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich — to step up the most.
"No matter what team it is in the tournament, the best players on those
respective teams need to play well," Self said. "Sherron and Cole are
our two best players. They need to play well and for the most part,
they have been consistent all year long. I do think that there is
another gear that they could both get to."
Collins, Aldrich and company are ready to roll into March Madness with
first winning the Big 12 Tournament. Freshman forward Thomas Robinson
said the key to to winning this three-game tourney is "having our minds
right and make sure that we're focused and keeping our eyes on the
prize. That will be our motivation."
If KU beats Texas Tech, the Jayhawks will win their 2,000 game all
time. And for KU's returning players, the upset loss to Baylor in its
opening round of the Big 12 Championship last season in Oklahoma City
will be plenty of motivation as well.
According to Collins, that 71-64 defeat still "stings."
"It was embarrassing," Collins said. "For us to win the conference and
then lose our first game in the tournament was very disappointing.
We're trying not to let that happen. We're working hard and staying
positive. We're staying on top of our game and playing like we've been
"... We're on a roll and playing pretty well right now. We're trying
not to lose and win every one."
KU, which ascended back to No. 1 in the polls this week, is aiming to
play like the number one team in the nation the rest of the way.
"We still have to prove that we're the best team in the country,"
Robinson said. "We want to go play like we're the best team in the
country and finish the season off as the best team in the country."
Postseason Gets Underway
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