By Wendell Barnhouse |
Kansas was the preseason pick by the Big 12 Conference coaches to win its ninth consecutive regular-season title. The Jayhawks did that, earning a co-championship with Kansas State.
That KU went on to win the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship Saturday, then, was not that big a shock. The Jayhawks have won the event nine out of the 10 times they've reached the title game.
But when the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced Sunday, Kansas earned a No. 1 seed. And according to the seed list released by the NCAA, the Jayhawks were right behind overall No. 1 seed Louisville. Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the South Regional.
"We're the number 2 overall seed ... who would've thought that would be the case with this team?" Kansas coach Bill Self asked. While the Jayhawks reached the championship game last season, they had to replace All-American forward Thomas Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor.
Kansas gaining the national respect of being ranked the second-best team in the 68-team field speaks to the strength of the Big 12. The Jayhawks winning the regular-season and postseason titles in the Conference helped their profile.
As Self said, "I think our league did pretty good" in placing four other teams in the bracket. Kansas State is a No. 4 seed in the West Regional, Oklahoma State is the No. 5 seed in the Midwest, Iowa State is the No. 10 in the West and Oklahoma is the No. 10 in the South.
The Big 12 has had 10 No. 1 seeds and Kansas has earned that spot eight times. The other No. 1 seeds from the Big 12 were Texas and Oklahoma, both in 2003.
In addition to Louisville and Kansas, the other No. 1 seeds were Indiana (East) and Gonzaga (West). Duke and Miami (Fla.) out of the Atlantic Coast Conference were considered contenders for a No. 1 seed.
"We felt we had six teams for those first four slots and we talked about them Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and into Sunday morning," NCAA Division I men's basketball committee chair Mike Bobinski said.
Kansas and Kansas State will play the first weekend where they played Saturday - the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Jayhawks will face No. 16 seed Western Kentucky while the Wildcats will face the winner of the Boise State-LaSalle first round First Four game that will be played Wednesday.
"I think a lot of KU fans will be there to support us..." Kansas senior Jeff Withey said. "I don't want to go home sad, these guys don't want to end their season prematurely...we're going to fight."
The two Oklahoma teams will be traveling in opposite directions. Oklahoma State will head to San Jose to take on No. 12 seed Oregon. Oklahoma will travel to Philadelphia and faces No. 7 seed San Diego State.
The Sooners' at-large bid made history for their coach. Lon Kruger is the first coach to guide five different schools to an NCAA Tournament bid. Previously he coached Kansas State (his alma mater), Illinois, Florida and UNLV to the NCAA tourney.
Iowa State will travel to Dayton, Ohio and will face No. 10 seed Notre Dame. Senior point guard Korie Lucious, in his first and only season playing for the Cyclones after transferring from Michigan State, has played in 11 NCAA tournament games and two Final Fours.
"They're a very disciplined team," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of Notre Dame. "They play team basketball. They rebound the heck out of it. They play physical.
"It'll be a very tough matchup. They've had huge wins, including the number one seed (Louisville) in the entire tournament. It's going to be a tough game, but hopefully we can do some things to stay in the game and have a chance to win."
Who they're playing
A look at the opponents for Big 12 Conference teams in the NCAA Tournament. (All times are CDT and approximate):
No. 1 Kansas (29-5) vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (20-15)
8:50 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
The scoop on Western Kentucky
NCAA bid: Automatic from Sun Belt Conference.
NCAA history: 15-22, 22nd appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Ray Harper.
Top players: T.J. Price, 6-4 Soph. G; George Fant, 6-5 Soph. F; Jamal Crook, 6-3 Sr. G; Brandon Harris, 6-1 Jr. G.
Season highlights: Western Kentucky survived a season in which it had three three-game losing streaks. The last of those skids came in mid-February and left the Hilltoppers with a 13-14 record. They recovered to win seven of their last eight.
You need to know: The Hilltoppers have earned their NCAA Tournament bid by winning the Sun Belt Conference title each of the last two seasons. And each time, they won four games in four days. ... Western Kentucky won a first-round game last season then lost to eventual national champion Kentucky (which defeated Kansas in the title game) in the second round, 81-66. ... The Hilltoppers returned four starters from last year's team. ... Western Kentucky has won seven of its last 10 games. ... The Hilltoppers have made the NCAA Tournament in four of the last six years. ... Coach Ray Harper is 14-2 at WKU in games played after Feb. 21.
No. 10 Oklahoma (20-11) vs. No. 7 San
Diego State (22-10)
8:20 p.m. Friday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
The scoop on San Diego State
NCAA bid: At large from Mountain West Conference.
NCAA history: 2-8, 9th appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Steve Fisher.
Top players: Jamaal Franklin, 6-5 Jr. G; Chase Tapley, 6-3 Sr. G; Xavier Thames, 6-3 Jr. G; DeShawn Stephens, 6-8 Sr. F; J.J. O'Brien, 6-7 Soph. F.
Season highlights: The Aztecs started 11-2 with the losses coming against ranked teams Syracuse and Arizona. San Diego State went 4-6 against the four Mountain West teams that are in the NCAA Tournament.
You need to know: Steve Fisher is in his 14th year at San Diego State. He previously coached at Michigan, recruiting the Fab Five. He was interim coach in 1989 when the Wolverines won the national championship. ... The Aztecs have a streak of four consecutive 25-win seasons they hope to keep alive. ... San Diego State has lost five of its last nine. ... The Aztecs started 11-2 with the losses coming against ranked teams Syracuse and Arizona. ... When OU coach Lon Kruger was at UNLV, San Diego State had a 13-5 record against the Runnin' Rebels.
No. 4 Kansas State (27-7) vs. No. 13 Boise State (21-10)/LaSalle (21-9)
2:10 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
The scoop on Boise State
NCAA Bid: At large from Mountain West Conference.
NCAA history: 0-5, 6th appearance, last in 2008.
Coach: Leon Rice
Top players: Anthony Drmic, 6-6, Soph. F; Derrick Marks, 6-3 Soph. G; Jeff Elorriaga, 6-2 Jr. G; Ryan Watkins, 6-9, Jr. F.
Season highlights: Boise State lost at Michigan State by four points and won by 13 at Creighton when the Bluejays were ranked No. 11. Both teams are in the bracket.
You need to know: Boise State made history by earning an at-large berth for the first time. ... Boise State won the automatic bid from the Big Sky Conference in 1976, 1988, 1993 and 1994, and the Western Athletic Conference in 2008. ... Rice is a former Gonzaga assistant who is in his third season at Boise State. ... The Broncos rely on a four-yard attack and make 40 percent of their 3-point shots. ... Boise State lost in the Mountain West Conference tournament to San Diego State, which faces Oklahoma in a second-round game. ... The Broncos have battled injuries. Of their nine losses going into the MWC tournament, only four had come with a full roster.
scoop on LaSalle
NCAA Bid: At large from Atlantic 10 Conference.
NCAA history: 11-10, 12th appearance, last in 1992
Coach: Dr. John Giannnini.
Top players: Ramon Galloway, 6-3 Sr. G; Tyreek Duren, 6-0 Jr. G; Tyrone Garland, 6-1 Soph. G; Jerrell Wright, 6-7 Soph. F.
Season highlights: The Explorers lost nonconference games to two NCAA Tournament teams - Bucknell and Miami (Fla.). In the tough Atlantic 10 Conference, LaSalle defeated Butler and VCU - two NCAA Tournament teams - in consecutive games in January. Prior to playing Boise State in the first-round game, the Explorers lost to Saint Louis and Butler.
You need to know: LaSalle has a dynamic back court in Ramon Galloway (17 points per game) and Tyreek Duren (15 per game). ... The Explorers get out-rebounded by about three per game. ... LaSalle has won seven of its last 10 games. ... LaSalle went 11-5 in A-10 games, its best record in the history of the league. ... La Salle has won 20-games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89 (26-6) and 1989-90 (30-2). ... The Explorers are 14-1 when dishing at least 15 assists as a team.
No. 5 Oklahoma State (24-8) vs. No. 12 Oregon (26-8)
3:40 p.m., Thursday at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
The scoop on Oregon
NCAA Bid: Automatic from Pacific-12 Conference.
NCAA history: 12-9, 11th appearance, last in 2008.
Coach: Dana Altman.
Top players: E.J. Singler, 6-6 Sr. F; Carlos Emory, 6-6 Sr. F; Damyean Dodtson, 6-5 Fr. G; Dominic Artis, 6-1 Fr. G; Tony Woods, 6-11 Sr. C.
Season highlights: Oregon won 18 of its first 20 games including victories over top 25 teams UNLV, Arizona and UCLA. The team slumped, though, going 5-4 when freshman point guard Dominic Artis was sidelined with an injury. Less than two weeks after beating UCLA, 76-67, the Ducks lost to Stanford by 24 points.
You need to know: Altman was named Pac-12 coach of the year. ... Oregon led the Pac-12 in rebounding (37.4 per game) and steals (8.5 per game). ... E.J. Singler is the brother of former Duke star Kyle. ... The Ducks have balanced scoring, with six players averaging at least nine points a game. ... Oregon lost a chance to win the Pac-12 regular-season title with losses to Colorado and Utah during the last week of the regular season. ... The Ducks swept the Northwest Pac-12 schools (Oregon State, Washington and Washington State) for the first time in 87 years.
10 Iowa State (22-11) vs. No. 7 Notre Dame (25-9)
8:45 p.m. Friday at University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
The scoop on Notre Dame
NCAA bid: At large from Big East Conference.
NCAA history: 31-36, 33rd appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Mike Brey.
Top players: Eric Atkins, 6-2, Jr. G; Jerian Grant, 6-5 Jr. G; Pat Connaughton, 6-5, Soph. F; Jack Cooley, 6-9 Sr. F.
Season highlights: Notre Dame started the season 14-1. The Irish are one of five teams to defeat overall No. 1 seed Louisville. Notre Dame won a five-overtime classic on Feb. 9 in South Bend.
You need to know: The Fighting Irish ranked 12th nationally in offensive efficiency and rely less on the bench than most in the tournament. ... Notre Dame ranked second nationally in assists per game and fourth in fewest personal fouls per game. The last time Notre Dame made the Sweet 16 was in 2003. ... The Irish have extended a school-record streak of seven straight 20-win seasons. ... Notre Dame opponents are shooting 32 percent from long range and the Irish will have to be solid on the perimeter against and Iowa State team that makes nearly 10 3-pointers per game. ... Notre Dame lost to Xavier in its NCAA opener last year and also lost its opener in 2010.