Last season, the Cinderella story of VCU ended the Jayhawks' season just short of the Final Four. Another double-digit seed in North Carolina State took them to the wire, but simply couldn't hit shots. This time around, they'll face a program with similar historical prestige in North Carolina.
After returning just one starter from last season, the Lawrence Boys are back in a familiar place. KU's star forward Thomas Robinson now knows the feeling of coming up short, and it's not something he plans on making an annual occurrence.
"I look at it as we got here before and we lost," Robinson said. "We have unfinished business to handle. I still got a sour taste in my mouth from last year when we lost in the Elite Eight so I'm going to try my hardest not to let that happen this year."
There is reason for optimism for the Jayhawks. The junior national sensation from Washington, D.C. by way of Brewster Academy (N.H.), has taken a leadership role this season and suggests that just getting to tomorrow's matchup is a feat the way his team has been playing.
"It's a good sign," Robinson said in the waning hours Friday night. "It says that we're still hoping that the lid comes off our offense for us hopefully Sunday. . .we knew coming into the season that we would have to find a way to get out of ugly games like this."
Several players from both participating squads called Sunday's showdown a "dream matchup". With a berth to New Orleans on the line, the stakes are high.
"Two great programs," Johnson said. "Two historic programs. Ten great players are going to start the game. Great people coming off the bench, great coaches. Great tradition, it's going to be a good one.
The man who hit the final bucket for Kansas on Friday feels that it's a fairly even battle.
"The matchups are pretty even," Johnson said. "They got some bigs, we got some bigs. They've got some guards, we've got some guards. They've got some scorers and we've got some scorers. I think it's pretty much going to balance out, it's just going to be about who wants it more."