Jayhawks a Hit in the Motor City

DETROIT — News, notes, and quotes on KU's Sweet 16 matchup with Villanova on Friday night while typing away in Motown. You know you've entered the "Madness" when you walk in the men's restroom at Ford Field and hear the the tribute song to the NCAA tournament, "One Shining Moment," blasting from the speakers above.

Pan-Am Trials Revisited

KU sophomore guard Sherron Collins and junior guard Mario Chalmers were cut at the U.S. Pan American Team trials last summer. (Both players shot poorly in tryouts.) Villanova head coach Jay Wright was head coach of the team.

“Let me make this clear, I didn’t cut them,” Wright said with a laugh. “The committee makes the choices. I would have loved to have them on the team. But I understood what the committee did. I supported it.”

Wright was quite impressed with the two players’ unselfishness at the tryouts.

“You see their talent, but then you get to coach them and you see they’re good kids, they want to learn,” Wright said. “Those guys were proud to be there. They were unselfish. They listened to anything you told them to do. They were great competitors. Watching tape now, both of them have improved incredibly. ... You don’t go 33-3 without really quality people. They’re really, really good kids, the kind of guys you’d love to have represent your university and the USA.”

Collins said he didn’t take being cut “personally.”

“There were a lot of good guards there,” he said. “I don’t think I performed well enough to make the team. The shots weren’t falling and things didn’t go my way.”

KU Knows Reynolds

Unlike Chalmers and Collins, Villanova star sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds made the U.S. Pan American Team. Reynolds was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year last season, only the second Wildcat in school history to earn that honor. He’s friends with guys like Collins and sophomore forward Darrell Arthur.

“Scottie was a McDonald’s All-American (like Collins), and I played with him at the Steve Nash Camp last summer and went with him to the Pan-American trials, so I know him pretty well,” Collins said. “He sent me a text message after I got hurt and I text him sometimes. We stay in contact.”

“(I) told him, ‘God bless, hope everything’s all right,’” Reynolds said about his text message to Collins earlier in the season.

“We’re close,” Arthur said about Reynolds. “He’s a good player, a good guard, and we just have to get out there and guard him. He’s one of my close friends and we talk a lot off the court so it’s going to be a fun matchup.”

Villanova Revival

KU leads the all-time series with Villanova 2-1, though the unranked Wildcats beat No. 2 KU in the last meeting, 83-62, on Jan. 22, 2005 in Philadelphia. That victory snapped Kansas’ 14-game winning streak and helped soon launch the program into national prominence. Villanova won 12 of its next 14 games and made its first NCAA tournament appearance under Wright, nearly upsetting eventual national champion North Carolina in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats have gone 86-32 (.729) since that win over Kansas.

“It was 38-34, a few minutes later it was 72-40,” KU coach Bill Self recalled about that loss in 2005. “They were great at jab series, really being able to beat their man off the bounce and that kind of stuff. This team is like that also. They’re young. They’re going to get better and better at it. I think they have great individual talent. They know their roles.”

Best Dressed Wright

Wright, who is considered one of the best dressed coaches in college hoops, was asked about Self and his wardrobe.

“I think I check him out during games,” Wright said. “He looks real good. Us guys on the East Coast, we think we know where to go to get all the good clothes. He’s out in the Midwest. He must have found his spots out there. He’ll have something good for me tomorrow night, I know that.’

Self also talked lightheartedly about his wardrobe challenge with Wright.

“I’ve heard from several of my so-called friends that told me, ‘Don’t try (to outdress Wright) because that’s one battle you can’t win.’” Self said. “If our team doesn’t outperform Villanova, then we will go 0-2 against them ‘cause nobody looks sharper than Jay on the sidelines.”

Hoops In The Dome

KU and Villanova will be playing in Ford Field, the dome stadium which is home to the Detroit Lions. The court is raised and being set at the 50-yard line, instead of the end zone. KU freshman center Cole Aldrich gave Ford Field rave reviews.

“It’s a neat place,” Aldrich said. “The University of Minnesota has kind of the same setup. Williams Arena is about a three-foot raise. It’s unique but a fun way to play on a court. You’re not used to having it raised, but I think it really won’t affect us diving for loose balls.”

KU senior guard Russell Robinson said the court elevation will be no problem.

“I can play on a roof, you know, if that’s where we have to play at,” Robinson said. “At this point in time, we’re just going to go out there and play the game.”

Self chimed in on playing in such a big venue.

“Even though it’s not as natural for the players, both teams have to play there,” Self said. “So I don’t have a problem with the size of the building because the team that wins this tournament this weekend is going to play in a big building next weekend (in the Alamodome in San Antonio at the Final Four),” he said. “Maybe the winner coming out of here would have an advantage.”

Jayhawks A Hit In Motor City

KU had an open practice at Ford Field on Thursday afternoon, drawing a nice crowd of KU supporters and Detroit locals.

As the players went through passing drills, a few fans gave Self props:

“Hey Bill, good job. I like the way you coach.”

After the players finished their drills and all gathered at midcourt, some KU fans began singing the Rock Chalk chant. The Jayhawks then concluded the practice by treating the fans to some slam dunks. Freshman guard Tyrel Reed drew a big ovation with a windmill dunk, while Arthur also evoked loud cheers as he ended the practice with a spectacular thunder dunk.

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