Under Bill Self, the Kansas Jayhawks are 17-5 in the first weekend of NCAA Tournament play. For a program that measures a seasons’ success off the month of March, the last two seasons have not held up to expectations. KU was downed by 10-seeded Stanford in 2014, followed by 7-seeded Wichita State last year, both in the round of 32.
Kansas will play the University of Connecticut for the first time since 1997 in the Second Round on Saturday. The Huskies are on a post-season ride that has seen a quadruple overtime win in the American Athletic Conference Championship, all the way to a second-half rally in the opening round against Colorado. Senior forward Perry Ellis feels the UConn run almost overshadows the Jayhawks 15-game winning streak.
“I feel like we’re a team that has some momentum also. We’ve been winning games and we just got to go out there and compete like we have been,” said Ellis
In Des Moines, Self’s squad matches up with a 9-seed that seems to find their footing among all the madness. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is 7-0 all-time in the Division I Championship, cutting down the net two years ago as only a 7–seed. Ollie’s 2014 team took down the overall No. 1 seed in Florida on their way to the championship game. Kansas happens to be the top-seeded team in this year’s field. On Friday, Wayne Selden Jr. showed high-regard for the Huskies.
“We definitely respect them. They’re definitely a legitimate team, definitely a legitimate name, historically a great program,” Selden said.
Playing a brand-name like UConn may exercise Kansas’ ability to perform at a high level. “It motivates us,” sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham mentioned before the game, “it brings the best out of us.”
At 6:45, the UConn-KU matchup is the nightcap for Saturday’s tournament games in Iowa. A win will put Bill Self and his team in the Sweet Sixteen.