He’s no doubt ached for it, visualizing the scene in his mind.
It is why this 6-5, 230-pound guard returned for his sophomore season — to help erase the heartbreak of last year’s March Madness and help lead the Jayhawks deep in the Big Dance.
And now he gets another opportunity on Friday at 11:15 a.m. when No. 2 seed Kansas (26-8) faces No. 15 seed New Mexico State (23-10) in the Jayhawks’ opening NCAA game at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Selden, who announced on Twitter just two days after KU’s loss to Stanford that he was coming back to Mount Oread, talked about what the NCAA Tournament meant to him at KU coach Bill Self’s summer camp last June and at media day in October.
“We didn’t win last year (in the tournament), that was the biggest thing,” Selden said. “We did the bare minimum of what we needed to do. We still have a lot to accomplish. We had the pieces last year, we just didn’t come through and we get a second chance.
“We all have the opportunity to do something special here,” Selden added, “and that’s what I came back for.”
Winning the school’s 11th straight league title was great this season, but Selden wants more.
He now enters the NCAA Tournament after playing two of the best games of his career in the Big 12 Championship at Kansas City in Sprint Center on Friday and Saturday, where he was the only Jayhawk named to the all-tournament team.
Finally feeling pain free after spraining an ankle against West Virginia on March 3 during Senior Night in Allen Fieldhouse, Selden scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting in KU’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semifinals while posting a career-high eight rebounds and also dishing out three assists.
Then, in the title game against Iowa State, Selden was even better, exploding for a career-high 25 points in KU’s 70-66 loss. He shot 8-of-12 from the field, 1-of-2 from three-point range, and tied his career high with making eight charities, all without a miss.
The athletic dynamo soared for dunks. He fearlessly attacked the rim. He shot with confidence.
It’s this kind of play which Selden hopes to continue in the NCAA Tournament. The always selfless Selden credited his teammates for his success.
“The biggest thing is staying aggressive,” Selden said Sunday after the NCAA brackets were announced. “It’s really been about my teammates, they’ve been getting it in front of me for a lot of easy baskets. I’m not really trying hard to score at all. A lot of it has just been coming to me with me cutting and my teammates finding me. A lot of it has just been getting into the flow of the game and being aggressive.”
Self has been preaching to Selden to indeed become more aggressive and stay in attack mode.
“We've been on him a lot and he's been very conscious of to not settle, and I think he did a better job of not settling,” Self said. “Those last two games (in the Big 12 Championship against Baylor and ISU, he was aggressive). He didn't have a good game against TCU (seven points) at all.
“We did a lot of talking with our entire team on how displeased we were (after the TCU game), because I think it's a reflection of attitudes more than it is talent, on all those things. His attitude has been so good the last two days; he didn't settle and he took the ball to the hole and was aggressive. I thought he played great over there, great. And we see that as a positive. Kelly Oubre Jr. was great one game (career-high 25 points versus the Horned Frogs). Frank (Mason III) had his moments where he was really, really good, and Perry (Ellis) then didn't have his balance. But if we can get those four guys playing well, we'll be hard to deal with.”
For KU to go far in the Big Dance, Selden knows it’s time to elevate his game after an inconsistent sophomore year. After scoring in double figures five straight games from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14, Selden went seven straight contests without posting more than seven points before he erupted for 20 against Baylor.
With so much at stake, he needs to continue to play free and attack the rim, which will open up his perimeter and three-point game. Selden, who is averaging 9.8 points and made a team-high 46 threes, remembers last year’s NCAA Tournament, where he played poorly against Eastern Kentucky and Stanford, averaging 2.0 points while shooting just 1-of-10 from the field, including 0-of-3 from downtown. He also claimed just one rebound in those two tournament games.
Now, he gets another shot at redemption.
Selden is too experienced and too good of a player to play that poorly again. After all, this was the guy who NBADraft.net pegged the best sophomore in the country before the season. This was also the guy who was once projected as a first-round 2015 NBA Draft pick. He needs to showcase and maximize his true talents and be THE guy who showed up in the last two games of the Big 12 Championship.
After waiting a year for another opportunity, Selden is now the team leader and ready to seize the moment and make every play matter. The Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament lives are in the balance.
“Everything is magnified now,” Selden said. “We know that every possession counts and we have to play like that. I feel like this weekend (in Big 12 Championship) there were times we played like that and at times that we didn’t.
“But to finish out our season, we definitely want to play like that.”