Kansas coach Bill Self had at least one thought on Tuesday when he saw the bracket for the Maui Invitational: At least the Jayhawks weren’t facing Wake Forest and head coach Danny Manning.
“He and I talked about it, and he’s pretty happy about that, too,” Self said. “If we make it to the finals, that would be great for both of us, but I wouldn’t be excited about playing Wake, and I don’t think he’d be excited about playing Kansas.”
Indeed, Manning appeared relieved Tuesday after seeing that Wake Forest had drawn an opening-round game against Indiana and was placed on the opposite side of the bracket from Kansas. Part of this could be expected. Manning, a former Kansas star and assistant coach, has deep ties with Self and the current staff. But mostly, Manning said, it stems from the fact his son, Evan, will be a senior walk-on at Kansas this fall.
“I’m very happy about that, to be honest with you,” Manning said. “My son plays on Bill’s team — that’s one reason. But you know, I’ve spent a lot of time with coach Self. He gave me my break into the coaching profession. I think of the world of him, and I’m just glad we’re not on the same side of the bracket.”
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That bracket, which was previously reported by The Star on Monday, features Kansas facing off against host Chaminade in the first round. With a victory, Kansas would play the winner of UCLA and UNLV in the semifinals. If Wake Forest can survive Indiana, Manning’s squad would face the winner of St. John’s and Vanderbilt in another semifinal.
“It’s obviously a great field,” Self said. “You have storied programs and programs that are right on the verge of doing something great. When I studied the bracket, I really pointed out what a great field it was.
“We’ll play Chaminade, which is not a ‘gimme game’ by any stretch, in the first round. I’m sure we’ll be talking to our players about Virginia (top-ranked and lost to Chaminade in 1982) many years ago before we play. Then the second-round matchup, we’re either going to play UCLA or UNLV. UNLV gave us all we wanted last year in the Fieldhouse, and UCLA has been to back-to-back Sweet 16s — so it’s good. I know our guys are looking forward to it.”
The tournament will begin on November 23.