The gathered media in Allen Field House "hmm'd" and "ooh'd" their way through the announcement of the teams involved in the Midwest regional of the NCAA tournament.

Everyone knew Kansas would be the tournament's overall top seed. Everyone knew their road to the Final Four would run through Oklahoma City and St. Louis. But not everyone knew that the two- and three-seeds on the other end of the bracket would be a dangerous Ohio State team and a tough, physical Georgetown team.

Add to that the interesting dynamic of being in the same region with Oklahoma State and Tennessee, the only two opponents to beat the 32-2 Jayhawks this season.

Oh, yeah – and if KU gets past the Lehigh Mountainhawks in round one, they could play 8-seed UNLV. The Runnin' Rebels are coached by a guy who I'd bet holds more than a professional interest in beating Kansas: Kansas State legend and former Wildcats coach Lon Kruger.

Have I left anyone out?

"There's also a team in there who beat us twice last year: Michigan State," KU coach Bill Self reminded me Sunday evening. He also pointed out that Lehigh plays in the Patriot League, just like Bucknell. Remember them? Self does.

Self said, "I'm sure we'll get hounded about that this week."

The general consensus early among media and fans is that, for being the number one seed, the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee didn't give Kansas a lot of breaks. Even the coach said Kansas' region was loaded.

"Just lookin' at it from a seeding standpoint, I would agree wholeheartedly," Self said. He then rattled off five really good reasons the Midwest could turn into the Black and Blue Region:

  • "(KU is) the number one overall."
  • "You've got a team out there (Ohio State) that's also the number two seed that several people thought were at least in the conversation for a one-seed."
  • "Then you have, in my opinion, a team (Georgetown) that played unbelievable down the stretch. Anybody that's able to score 91 points on Syracuse, they can beat anybody."
  • "Your four-seed (Maryland) is your ACC champion"
  • "And your five seed (Michigan State) is your Big 10 co-champions."

Self was quick to point out, however, that his Jayhawks didn't have to run the gauntlet of all those tough teams. In fact, most of those teams would have to beat each other up before getting a shot at the top-ranked Jayhawks.

"People get carried away with the NCAA tournament if you look ahead. If you look too far ahead, you'll be preparing for something that, there's a chance it might not ever exist. You've got to stay in the present, and the present is this weekend."

He added, "You can look at all the brackets and coaches from whatever perspective can do that because coaches believe that any opponent is tough, and in the NCAA tournament, they should be tough. We're excited but we know we've got a lot ahead of us."

On what may be the biggest day of the coaching year, Self spoke like a kid on Christmas who knew what he was going to get under the tree: pleased, but not anywhere near giddy.

"It was anticlimactic to know that we'd be a one-seed because we knew that going into today. Being the overall number one is good, even though it doesn't mean anything."

Self said that a one-seed isn't really a blessing or a curse. Whatever it is, though, he said his team should know how to deal with it.

"We've been ranked number one all but three weeks this year, so we're kinda used to that. Even though the committee made it known we were the overall number one seed, when you're ranked number one in America, most people view you as the number one team, whether you're deserving or not, so I don't think it'll be that big a deal to our guys."

Self's approach is simple: break the tournament up into manageable parts and stay in the present.

"We gotta win a two-game tournament," he said about the immediate task at hand. "Our focus is, we want to play well against Lehigh, and if we're successful, then we want to play well against either Northern Iowa or UNLV, and we won't take it any further than that."

Self is confident that his Jayhawks are equipped for a tournament run filled with expectations, regardless of the opponent.

"From my biased perspective, (the Midwest) is the toughest regional, but I believe we played a tough schedule this year, too, that hopefully prepared us for it." Top Stories