March 15, 2007

Self: I Love This Team

For Bill Self and second-ranked Kansas (30-4; 17-2), the time is now. Coming off back-to-back losses in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks are hoping to put together a National Championship run. KU, the top-seed in the West Region, will get things started on Friday night, as they face the Niagara Purple Eagles at 6:10 CST.

Two years ago, Self's squad lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A year later, the Jayhawks were bounced in the first round again, this time by Bradley. As KU prepares to face Niagara in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday said, Self said there is a big difference between this year and last.

"We are more seasoned," said Self. "I think that's the biggest thing, that we are older. Last year's team was really a perfect scenario for a young team. Get humbled early, get everybody grounded, nobody is quite as spoiled, toughen up because we weren't that tough early and then play under the radar all year long. You don't have that scenario that often, where you have very good players and you are under the radar. The only time we were really on the radar last season is after we won the Big 12 Tournament.

"I remember Danny Manning saying on that Friday morning that we didn't have to worry about these guys being tight," he added. "Then before the game, there was a little different feel in the locker room than there was earlier in the day. This year, the fact that we started out with expectations, lost early which humbled and toughened us up, we played games with high stakes and national implications, which we didn't last year. I think through that maturation process we should be better to handle the attention that the NCAA gets."

Self's squad certainly has the talent, athleticism and depth to make a serious run at the National Championship. Since losing to Texas A&M back in February 3, the Jayhawks have won 11 straight games by an average of 18.72-points per contest. During that time, the Hawks managed to win those 11 games in a variety of ways.

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