And Away We Go!

Bill Self wasn't too pleased with KU's performance after the Jayhawks lost to Baylor, 71-64, in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday in Oklahoma City. And now, KU prepares to face North Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament.

"The game obviously was not a well-played game by Kansas at all," the KU coach said. "I thought Baylor controlled the game from the get-go. They were certainly better than us from the start. We got exactly what we deserved."

"Today is a reality check," Bill Self added. "First thing we are doing, we go back when we get to the hotel and go to school tomorrow and make all the players walk around class tomorrow with all the other students wondering why are you back here already? And then we will practice as hard as we have ever practiced in the next two days and get them thinking about that as opposed to worrying about what just happened."

Three days later on Selection Sunday, a rejuvenated Self walked into the interview room in Allen Fieldhouse at 5:55 p.m. He was relaxed and cracked jokes before taking questions on KU's No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, where the Jayhawks open NCAA play on Friday against the No. 14-seeded North Dakota State Bison, who won both the Summit League regular-season title and conference tournament championship.

"I thought we got where we deserved to be," Self said. "I think for our hopes to be a No. 2 seed, we were going to have to perform a little bit better than we did in Oklahoma City. I think it's a very difficult bracket, but I'm sure that everybody, whatever seed they are in their respective regions, feels the exact same way."

If KU beats North Dakota State (26-6, 16-2 in Summit League), the Jayhawks will play the winner of No. 6 West Virginia and No. 11 Dayton on Sunday. Looking ahead at a possible Sweet 16, KU could potentially play No. 2 Michigan State in a rematch of the KU-MSU meeting in East Lansing on January 10, which the Spartans won, 75-62.

Other teams in the Midwest Regional include No. 1 Louisville, No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 5 Utah, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Siena (KU beat the Saints, 91-84, at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 6) and No. 12 Arizona, which whipped Kansas at Tucson, 84-67, on Dec. 23.

While Self and the Jayhawks would have enjoyed playing in Kansas City for the opening rounds, the head coach said Minneapolis is just "fine." And Self said the Friday-Sunday games could bring more KU fans to Minnesota.
 
"Hopefully since the game is on Friday," Self said, "I think that will be better for KU fans to travel because they would just miss one day of work."

Self didn't have a problem with Oklahoma (27-5) receiving a No. 2 seed in Kansas City, even though KU beat the Sooners in Norman, was the outright Big 12 champions, and OU lost four of its last six games.

Self believes the committee was more impressed with OU's overall season than Kansas.
 
"I think if you look at the entire year and don't break it down to non-conference and conference," Self said, "I think that you could say OU had a better year."

Self reported that KU's had some high-energy practices following the Baylor loss.
 
"The guys have responded pretty well," Self said.

He and his coaching staff are now looking forward to some more spirited practices and also scouting North Dakota State.

"We will have plenty of tape," Self said. "Every game that they've played on TV in the last month and a half, we have. We will be able to break some film down tonight."

Like Self, junior point guard Sherron Collins and sophomore center Cole Aldrich were relaxed and in good moods during the interview session. Collins sported a white T-shirt, while Aldrich wore a light blue polo shirt and shorts.

Aldrich, a Bloomington, Minn., native, was looking forward to playing back home. He and Collins joked with each other whether Minnesota was more of a hockey or basketball state and how Collins would look in hockey skates.

But joking aside, the two stars know the real deal begins on Friday.

"Cole and I try to talk to (our teammates) as much as we can and let them know that we don't have any time to get this next game back like we did in the conference tournament," Collins said.

"I think we will be ready to play. I am so anxious to play that I wish it started tomorrow."

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