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
"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
"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
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,"
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
"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."
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