Jayhawks prepare for Sweet 16

Jayhawks prepare for Sweet 16

Kansas head coach Bill Self met with the media in Lawrence, Kan. on Tuesday afternoon, to discuss his team's thrilling comeback victory over the Purdue Boilermakers in the Round of 32 and preview their upcoming battle with North Carolina State in the Sweet 16.

* Sunday's victory over the Purdue Boilermakers was, to put it mildly, a somewhat tense affair - as the Jayhawks held the lead for a grand total of less than a minute of game clock. They held it when the final horn sounded, however, which as any team still alive in the NCAA Tournament can attest is really all that matters.

"I think if you've followed the NCAA Tournament for years the whole idea is to advance and win, and I thought that we made some unbelievable plays down the stretch to put us in that position," said Kansas head coach Bill Self. "I thought Purdue played very well and we shot it miserably. So I don't want to say (he feels) relieved or whatever. That happened two days ago, so our focus is moving forward."

* After a first half during which Purdue senior forward Robbie Hummel seemingly couldn't miss - scoring 22 points before intermission - the Jayhawks rolled out a triangle-and-two combination defense to try and slow him down in the second.

The tactic worked. Hummel scored just four points during the final 20 minutes, and the Purdue offense as a whole was slowed considerably. It's a defensive weapon the Jayhawks keep in their arsenal for just such a situation.

"We've got that, that's part of our package," Self said. "And there are certain teams that it certainly wouldn't work against, but we thought if we couldn't guard them when (Ryne) Smith was out of the game that there was a chance that we could do it."

* To say Kansas struggled offensively versus the Boilermakers, particularly during the first half, would be a serious understatement.

The Jayhawks shot just 29.4-percent during the first half, and missed several bunnies in the process. To Self, it was just one of those nights that happens to all teams.

"There's a lot of times in basketball or in life that you actually think you're shooting it the same way and it just doesn't go in," he said. "I think too much can be made sometimes that there's a certain reason why things don't happen. Sometimes you can hit a putt right on line and it doesn't go in."

* In recent weeks, the play of junior shooting guard Elijah Johnson has ascended to a new level - and his confidence has a lot to do with it.

Not that he hasn't always been a confident player, Self said, but it's begun to show through in different areas of his play - such as when he took the deep three-pointer Sunday that gave the Jayhawks the lead for the first time.

"That was a big-time play because for a guy who hasn't shot it well - I think he was 2 for 7 going into that shot - that's usually not a shot a guy takes unless he has great confidence, " Self explained. "And he certainly has great confidence right now."

"Everybody has been on him all year long to be more aggressive, and certainly he's been terrific the last three weeks or so," he added. "He's played his tail off."

* Kansas star forward Thomas Robinson was held to just 11 points on 2-of-12 shooting versus Purdue, as the Boilermakers threw constant double-teams at him and packed the lane tight. It was a smart move, Self said, and the Jayhawks could have helped themselves more had they done the little things more effectively - little things such as setting screens.

"Sometimes if you don't guard a guy but you fake a screen or don't do a good job screening, he can make you feel like he's close enough to make you feel guarded," he said. "And I thought they did a good job of that. Going back and watching the tape, I think the point earlier was they made harder shots than we missed. And that's the NCAA tournament. That's how teams advance and that's why teams go home."

* Part of what made Purdue such a difficult match-up for the Jayhawks from a personnel perspective is how closely they resembled Big 12 teams such as Iowa State and Missouri. With limited size in the post, the Boilermakers play a smaller, quicker lineup with an offense centered around Hummel's ability to draw big men away from the hoop and hit shots from long range.

Kansas' next opponent, North Carolina State, represents a more traditional challenge, though that doesn't mean they're any less effective.

"Their bigs are really athletic," Self said. "C.J. Leslie is a three-man playing the four, but it is much more traditional. We can be who we are against them more so than we could have against Purdue, because no matter what either Jeff or Thomas had to guard Hummel. And that automatically puts us in a situation where we haven't practiced that a lot."

* Though the Jayhawks lost so much in the way of personnel following the 2010-2011 season, many players remain from the squad that fell in the Elite 8 to Virginia Commonwealth.

When one reaches this point in the season, Self believes too much is made of the seeding when it comes to individual match-ups. In order to reach the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8, a team has to win games versus quality competition.

In other words, everyone left can play some ball.

"(VCU was) just better than us on that day," Self said. "But nobody talks about all the other teams they beat to get to us. Florida State or Georgetown or whoever else. Last year is good for us from a distraction standpoint and a focus standpoint, but I'm not last year will have much to do with how we play this weekend."

* NC State sophomore forward C.J. Leslie has received a great deal of ink for his play of late, and justifiably so. In the past five games, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound athletic freak has turned in point totals of 14, 15, 22, 19 and 11.

He's far from the Wolfpack's only weapon, however, and Self is well aware of how dangerous the rest of the team can be. In fact, they have five players who average more than 10 points per game.

"Point guard play is great, (Richard) Howell can score inside or stepping away from the basket," Self said. "They've got as good a three point shooter as there is in the country for the most part (Scott Wood). They've got great players. To me, balance is always the toughest thing to defend and they do have good balance."

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