"I don't know if freshmen are ever quite prepared or ready, but I think we are more so than we were," said coach Bill Self earlier this week.
"David needed a boost of confidence and Sunday should have given him that. I have gotten on J.R. and told him he has to go and play away from this building (Allen Fieldhouse). He has done a much better job of playing away from home," said Self.
Omar Wilkes, Jeremy Case, and Nick Bahe will also be encountering their first conference championship series. However, the players are not the only ones encountering the Big 12 Tournament for the first time. Bill Self has experienced the season from a slightly different perspective, now that his title designates him Jayhawk as well.
"At Illinois I could do some things that would not get reported on. Being at Kansas you don't do anything without it having a good chance of being reported. I think the media and the fans have been fair," said Self.
"I don't research the Internet or listen to radio call-in shows. If I did I would get my feelings hurt every day," laughed Self. "It's irrelevant to me what people think on the outside. As a coach, I know that we can do what we can do. There have been times this year when we have performed really well and at other times we haven't -- I take responsibility for that."
Self realized the Kansas job came with high expectations, but has still had to adjust a bit to the scrutiny and standards of the Jayhawk faithful.
"I think they are higher than I even anticipated coming into it," said Self. "That's why we came here -- to be at a place where you expect to be great every year -- we knew that going in."
The more seasoned members of the team knew it as well. With back to back Final Fours on their resumes, experience is something you can find in the junior leaders of Kansas. This leadership is something KU will rely on, this weekend and beyond.
"I feel like this team has experienced so much success that they just thought they would get it done and not have anything to worry about -- that's not the way it works," said Self. "I think we have grown up like a team as well but it's still nice to know that you have guys there that have been there and done it when it counted the most -- it should really help us."
While the Big 12 Tournament is an important experience and step, fans and coaches alike can't help but think beyond this weekend to the Big Dance.
"I am starting to feel it now," admitted Self. "I think when you start watching CBS and the selection show get ready to begin is when you start feeling it. This is part of postseason -- going into this weekend. Every player and every coach in America would tell you that (Selection Sunday) is the day that really kicks everything off."