Win the Big 12 Tournament and you won’t have to worry about anyone else posing with the trophy. Survive your bracket and it’s on to Final Four euphoria, and possibly a national championship. Those will be a couple of the carrots Self dangles in front of his players this week to make sure they’re hungry for what the “next” season could bring.
You can be sure Self will be explaining the meat and potatoes of the one-and-done scenario to his underclassmen. They could play as few as two more games or as many as nine. The Jayhawks already passed the test and weathered a long and rigorous Big 12 season, but now it’s time to run a couple of sprints.
First, it’s three games in three days in Dallas at the conference tournament where Kansas will be playing to earn the highest seed possible. If they win, a three seed is not out of the question. If they lose their first game, a five or six seed might be what the committee labels the Jayhawks.
The last time KU played three games in three days, the results were less than favorable. But that was back in November, in Maui and this team has come a long way since then.
"Hopefully we'll do it better this time. The thing about postseason tournaments, since they're one-and-done, you have put unbelievable emphasis on each game. Usually more mature teams handle those situations better. We'll emphasize some different things as far as being at that magic level on Friday, but then again if we're fortunate enough to win, we'll have to make sure we conserve enough energy to make sure we're ready to go again the next day,” Bill Self stated at his weekly press conference.
At a time of the year where experience is deemed invaluable, the third year KU coach will have to play up the carefree youth on his roster. Grizzled veterans certainly didn’t mean much to KU’s postseason success last season and this team seems to have great chemistry. Having such a loose group could be a blessing as long as they understand an off night during this part of the schedule means you go home.
"Every team in our league will be excited to play. We better be eager or else we'll get beat the first game. We could go try really hard and still come up empty. There isn't a big discrepancy in talent level. This will be a great test for us to see just how mature we are,” said Self.
After Dallas it’s on to the Big Dance. There’s plenty of hoops to be played before this but…
Maybe Self will draw on the inspirational story of another “inexperienced” team that took home a national title back in 1997, ironically enough in Indianapolis – the Arizona Wildcats. By the way, I’m sure Self will leave out the part about the Cats taking down Kansas on their way to the title. Lute Olson’s ’97 squad started five underclassmen that outclassed their older, and more experienced opponents. Mike Bibby and Miles Simon played like seasoned veterans. So guys – it is possible. Zona was a four-seed in that tourney, an achievable goal for Kansas if they perform well in the conference tourney.