Sherron Collins said it best: “This is where the real season starts, right here.”
Yes, the stakes are getting higher as Kansas enters the Big 12
Tournament on Friday at 6 p.m. The Jayhawks are trying to win their
third straight conference tournament championship and secure a No. 1
seed in the NCAA Tournament.
KU (28-3) is on a roll and playing its best basketball heading into the
postseason. The Jayhawks, who have won four straight games since losing
at Oklahoma State on Feb. 23, will face the winner of the
Nebraska-Missouri game on Thursday night.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,
we’re finally getting everything back and
everybody’s healthy,” Collins said.
Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur agrees that KU’s on the
"I think after the loss to Oklahoma State, we have been on the
rise,” he said. “I think we have come together as a
team. We had a couple of meetings, and ever since then, we've been
playing really good."
KU coach Bill Self said there’s a lot to play for in the Big
“In our mind and in Texas' (co-Big 12 champs with Kansas)
mind, even though they beat us (72-69 in Austin on Feb. 11), there is a
chance to determine the premier team in the league and the only way we
can do that, both us and Texas, is if we play really good on Friday and
Saturday and get to Sunday,” Self said. “That's
something worth playing for and seeding is definitely something we're
playing for. When you go to school, you want to play for championships
and this is our championship.”
Winning the Big 12 Tournament would make KU a very strong contender for
a No. 1 seed. Self said North Carolina is a lock for a No. 1 seed,
while teams like Memphis, Tennessee, and UCLA are right in the mix. And
certainly Texas (26-5) will have legitimate shot at a No. 1 seed if the
Longhorns can capture the Big 12 tourney.
“We have a chance (at a No. 1 seed), but some things probably
need to happen to make it a reality,” Self said.
“One being we'd have to win the tournament and two, we'd
probably need somebody else to not perform as well this week. Even if
we're not that (No. 1 seed), and I'm not putting any emphasis on it, we
just want to gather as much momentum as we can going into next week."
Whether the ‘Hawks play Missouri (16-15) or Nebraska (18-11),
KU will be facing teams they’ve beaten twice each. Kansas
beat MU, 76-70, at Columbia on Jan. 19, and then whipped the Tigers,
90-71, in Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 4. The Jayhawks defeated Nebraska,
79-58, in Lincoln on Jan. 12 before blowing out the Cornhuskers, 84-49,
in Lawrence on Jan. 26.
Missouri and Nebraska split both of their matchups this season. NU won
at Missouri, 66-62, on Jan. 30, while the Tigers beat Nebraska in
Lincoln, 86-78 (OT). This next game will be a hard one to pick.
"I think it's a coin-flip game,” Self said. “I've
said all along that Missouri is capable of having success against
anybody. We had a hard time guarding them both times we played them.
Nebraska has really played well this past month. Doc's (Coach Doc
Sadler) got them playing at a high level. Whoever we play isn't going
to be easy.”
Junior guard and Kansas City native Brandon Rush said he’d
love to play Missouri again, especially since the game’s in
KC. He added if there was a KU-MU matchup, his older brother and former
Tigers’ star Kareem would pull for Kansas.
“He’s got to, it’s blood,”
Brandon said. “(It’s) not where he went (to
Self believes the Big 12 will definitely have five teams in the Big
Dance (Kansas, Texas, K-State, Oklahoma, and Baylor) with Texas
A&M also a possibility. However, he’s just concerned
now with his own team and continuing to play at a high level.
As Collins said, the real season starts now.
"We are going to try and come out and show that we got the best team in
the (Big 12) Conference,” Collins said. “As long as
we get everything done the right way we’re supposed to,
hopefully we’ll come out and get the No. 1 seed (in the
NCAA’s). But no matter what seed (you are), you still got to
show up and play."
Confident Collins Ready for Postseason
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