Balancing Act

For Kansas the script being written during the 2011 NCAA Tournament is a familiar one.

It's eerily similar to the one KU crafted in 2008 dispatching 16th seeded Portland State, 8th seeded UNLV, 12th seeded Villanova, and then 10th seeded Davidson.  A combined total of 46 before taking on two one seeds to win a national title.

This year standing in front of KU already gone 16th seeded Boston University, 9th seeded Illinois, and ahead 12th seeded Richmond and possibly either 10th seeded Florida State or even 11th seeded VCU. That's a possible seed total of 48. That means, much like 2008, KU will be heavily favored all the way to Houston. When asked if it felt familiar Self answered, "not really," but there are parallels. KU just happens to also be facing Richmond in San Antonio, the site of KU's most recent NCAA title.

In some ways it's tougher than having to face teams like Purdue or Notre Dame who were expected to battle KU for a Final Four spot.

The Jayhawks escaped Davidson but looked tight against the mid-major giant killers.

"Davidson, up until the National Championship game gave us the best game in the tournament, our best game, without question. And that was a one-possession game," said KU Head Coach Bill Self.

This KU team has shown tightness against mid-majors before as recently as last week's first round matchup vs. BU and notably last year against Northern Iowa.  But in the Self era KU has also fallen to Bucknell and Bradley in Tournament play. Those aren't exactly positive reminders for Kansas.

"No, those games don't get brought up too much," said Thomas Robinson. "We were the No. 1 seed last year and lost a 9 or whatever it was. We lost to a team that we probably seed-wise shouldn't have lost to. So we understand, I think this team this year understands that we can't look past anybody or take anybody lightly. We've got to come out ready to play. Play everybody like they're the No. 1 seed."

"It's not about the seeds," Self stated. "Fans and media people may play it out to be that way. It's not about the seeds. It's about players. It's about match-ups. And Richmond has good players."

Maybe its coach-speak. Maybe its Self trying to get his players to not concentrate on the number in front of the team they are facing. Self's did his best to dismiss similarities and seed talk on Thursday but the media will not let KU escape the questions or the mid-major references.

In order for KU to not be adversely effected by the heavy favorite burden it will need to ignore the seed and...

"I think we have to be the aggressor," Robinson told reporters on Thursday.

And Self has taken steps to make sure that is the case. He knows he needs his team to generate the energy. The Hawks have been more aggressive on hedges on ball screens at times and even picked up ¾ court pressure a little. There is no way KU will or should let Richmond operate in its comfort zone.

"Our guys will not look at Richmond as a -- they will look at them as incorrectly seeded and certainly very capable of beating anybody in the field. They've got NBA prospects that could play anywhere in America," Self added.

In case his teams needs another subtle reminder, Self can always bring up the 2004 loss to Richmond in the Fieldhouse or maybe even their historic upset of Syracuse back in 1991. The Spiders have a reputation as giant-killers.

"I told our guys last time we played them they got us in our building. So if anything our guys know that they're capable of playing at a high level as a program, even though it was several years ago, but they certainly did that night.

There's a delicate balancing act for Self here. He will need to warn his team about what Richmond can do but yet making sure his team doesn't come out tight or nervous. The talk can't be escaped when you get to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament – its everywhere. It's on TV, it's on radio, and it's in nearly every press conference.  But Self has been here before.

"We're excited to be here. The field here is strong," Self continued. "It may not appear from a seeding standpoint to be as strong as 1, 2, 3 and 4 that are left, but I guarantee that there will be nobody that will be looking forward to playing anybody in this field right now. Unless you get to the Sweet 16, you expect to play a great team. And certainly we have an opportunity to play a great one tomorrow." Top Stories