Something stood out when Kansas center Landen Lucas went back to look at the film of his team’s victory over Connecticut in last year’s NCAA Tournament round of 32: The Jayhawks were fired up from the beginning.
“It doesn’t hurt at all when you’ve got a big-name team you’re lining up across,” Lucas said. “We welcome it.”
Barring a monumental upset in the opener against either North Carolina Central or UC Davis, KU once again will get that benefit in the second round this season, as its opponent will either be eighth-seeded Miami (Fla.) or ninth-seeded Michigan State.
“What is immediately in front of us is Power Five conference teams,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We’ve obviously lost different ways in the tournament, but you think about it, you say, ‘Well Missouri Valley’s been a thorn in your side or Bucknell.’
“The fact of the matter is … the first game isn’t as well known of a game, obviously, but if you’re fortunate enough to advance, you’re going to be playing people that are well known, and players will recognize names on the other team.”
Selection Sunday is the rare day where the Jayhawks can look ahead a few rounds, if only for a few hours. Self’s philosophy has always been to focus on each week as a four-team tournament, meaning KU’s attention soon will move to No. 16 seeds N.C. Central and UC Davis, who face off in a First Four game at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday (truTV) in Dayton, Ohio.
“I do think it’s a little bit of a disadvantage not knowing who you’re going to play the first game,” Self said, “but obviously other teams have to do the same thing as well.”
Lucas says his teammates will be prepared regardless of the opponent, especially after KU dropped its Big 12 Tournament opener, 85-82, to TCU on Thursday.
“We’ll take (the first game) as seriously as you can,” Lucas said, “and I’ll make sure we do.”
Self was impressed earlier in the season with N.C. Central, as he watched part of its 69-63 road loss to Ohio State on Nov. 14. The Eagles also won at Missouri, 62-52, on Nov. 28.
UC Davis, meanwhile, is familiar to Self because of its coach; Jim Les was at Bradley in 2006 when the Braves upset the fourth-seeded Jayhawks, 77-73, in the NCAA Tournament first round.
Should the Jayhawks advance, they’ll get a foe from either the Big Ten or Atlantic Coast Conference.
“To have two teams that have such a big name and great history to them, it’s good for us,” Lucas said. “I think last year it helped us go out there motivated, ready to go.”