Focus, focus, focus

The media frenzy is reaching a fever pitch as four of the Sweet Sixteen have been sent packing, with four more to be sent home today. When it comes to handling the scrutiny and media attention, Kansas clearly has an edge in the experience category.

"I thought they (the team) did a great job handling the distractions," said Coach Bill Self after last week's games in Kansas City.

"Everybody means well but it is amazing how many people are trying to knock on doors to get autographs at the hotel. You just put security on the floor and usually that badge and gun scare people off pretty quick," said Self with a grin.

KU's opponent today, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1999. UAB is 22-9 overall and went 12-4 in Conference USA. Coach Mike Anderson expressed slight concern over experience in the NCAA tournament atmosphere. As for the players, they were just trying to focus on their next game as they attempted to move on in the tournament.

"It's tough for me because I've never been here before. Coach always says, ‘Act like you've been here before', but I've never been here," said sophomore guard "Squeaky" Johnson.

But 80% of the Kansas starting line up has been here before – twice. UAB had an impressive win over #1 seed Kentucky and now faces Kansas in St. Louis, a venue where the crowd is likely to be pro-Jayhawk.

"(Coach) tells us to just act like their chanting for us and that's what we do. We just go out and play hard and don't worry about the fans, just the people we're playing against," said senior forward Gabe Kennedy.

A higher seed and a friendly crowd certainly seem to give Kansas an advantage. This UAB team has already demonstrated they are not intimidated by a name and are capable of upsets.

"We've seen (Kansas) on TV a lot. They have good guards in Aaron Miles and Keith Langford. We're not playing Kansas, we're playing their players and we're trying not to look at their jerseys," said Johnson.

"We don't want to get big-headed and think we can just go out and beat anybody," added sophomore forward Demario Eddins.

One UAB team leader is senior guard Mo Finley. Finley paces the Blazers in scoring with 13.9 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting from the field. As the next match up approached, Finley was trying to just concentrate on the task at hand.

"It's been pretty hectic for the most part. We've just been trying to maintain focus on Kansas and I think that we still have a lot of basketball left to play, and we can't afford to get too caught up in the Kentucky game or this past week," said senior guard Mo Finley.

"A lot of teams in the tournament get too caught up in all of the attention and all of the hype, but for me it's been exciting and also a little stressful."

His teammates were also aware of the hype and fan frenzy.

"We really haven't had this all year. We are used to the one-on-one interviews, but nothing of this magnitude," admitted sophomore forward Demario Eddins. "With me coming from a little junior college, just getting on planes and staying hotels, that's all new to me," said junior forward Marques Lewis.

But how much do distractions and experience really matter when the ball is tossed up and the game clock begins? As Kansas and UAB battle it out tonight, perhaps the answer will become clearer.


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