Preview: Kansas vs. Lehigh

At 32-2, KU begins the NCAA tournament tonight against Lehigh at 8:30 in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City needing six more wins to become the winningest team in school history, bettering the 37-3 record of the 2008 national championship team.

Of course, six victories would mean another national championship for the Jayhawks.

While a national title is KU's ultimate goal, the No. 1 Jayhawks know they can't look past Round One and the No. 16-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks (22-10, 10-4 Patriot League), who ride a five-game winning streak and are coming off a 74-59 victory over Lafayette in the Patriot League tournament championship game on March 12.

Lehigh's 22 wins this season are the most in LU history.

"From what we've seen, we think they're a good team," KU sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "They shoot a lot of threes (16.6 per game). They have a really good freshman guard in C.J. McCollum and a point guard (senior Marquis Hall) who is really solid. We have our work cut out for us."

Lehigh, which is making its fourth NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2004, enters the Big Dance averaging 75.1 points per game and allowing 70. LU shoots 45.6 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range, and 71.6 percent at the charity stripe. The Mountain Hawks outrebound their opponents 36.5 to 34.9 per game, while limiting foes to 42.2 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc.

McCollum leads the attack with 18.9 points per game (nation's leading freshman scorer), 70 three-point field goals and 40 steals. His 76 assists are second on the team. Backcourt mate Hall averages 11 points per game and has a dished out a team-high 182 assists, while ranking 15th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. Senior forward Zahir Carrington is the third player in double figures with a 10.8 scoring average. He leads the team with 6.7 rebounds per game and 39 blocks.

Junior guard Michael Ojo (7.0 ppg), freshman forward Gabe Knutson (9.6 ppg), senior guard Dave Buchberger (6.2 ppg), freshman forward Holden Greiner (3.6 ppg), junior guard Rob Keefer (3.6 ppg) and sophomore forward John Adams (3.0 ppg) also contribute to the attack.

KU coach Bill Self said Lehigh will have his team's complete attention.

"We think Lehigh is very capable," Self said. "There's no question about that. They've got a great player  (McCollum) that can go get 30 any night and he's got help, too. ... This is one reason why the tournament is so great is because of Cinderella and there's a lot of teams out there that have worn that slipper. We've had people do that against us and our job is to make sure we do everything we can from a competitive standpoint and approach it like it's the biggest game of the year because it is the biggest game of the year we've played so far."

KU enters the game in good health and coming off some quality practices.

"This time of year we've been fortunate that we've remained somewhat healthy," Self said. "This is a time of year where players get dinged up pretty good. But we've been able to keep our full complement of players in practice sessions."

Coincidentally, the last time KU opened the NCAA tournament in Oklahoma City, its opponent was another team from the Patriot League — Bucknell in 2005. The Jayhawks lost that first-round game, 64-63, exactly five years ago today.

"There are similarities that we're playing a team from the Patriot League and playing in Oklahoma City, that kind of stuff," Self said. "But we have a different team, and this is certainly a different team than what we played in '05. I don't even think I mentioned it to our players. I may have mentioned it at one time just to try to get their attention on us being ready, but that was a long time ago. And if you talk about that stuff a lot, then you're dwelling on the negatives as opposed to thinking positive the whole time."

That 2005 team entered the Big Dance as a No. 3 seed and losing two of its previous three games. The 2009-10 Jayhawks, meanwhile, open the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and winning five straight and 18 of their last 19. They are the odds-on favorite to cut down the national championship nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 5.

President Barack Obama has KU winning it all in his bracket.

"I think the President is a very wise man," Self said. "He picked ‘Carolina last year, if I'm not mistaken. So hopefully that will play out to be true; at least we'll get some publicity out of it. There's been a lot of people that have picked us to do quite well in the tournament, and I don't know if that's good or if that's bad, but certainly something that we're going to try hard to strive for."

Sophomore forward Markieff Morris is thrilled Obama picked the Jayhawks to win the championship.

"I like Obama, and I liked him more when he picked us to win," Morris said.

And if Kansas is the last team standing on April 5, the Jayhawks will leave their mark as the winningest team in school history.

"I haven't even thought about that yet (38 wins)," freshman swingman Xavier Henry said, "but that would be a great thing for the school and a great thing for all the people that support KU."

First up, though, is Lehigh.

"It's going to be a tough game," Taylor said. "We'll be ready to play, we're not sleeping on our opponent."

Phog.net Top Stories