The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

No number one seed has ever lost to a 16 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament and if you ask Kansas coach Bill Self, that's just how he would prefer to keep it.

No number one seed has ever lost to a 16 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament and if you ask Kansas coach Bill Self, that's just how he would prefer to keep it.

But as this year's tournament looms, Self as he's done often at Kansas, warns all who will listen. As his team is once again fortunate to be a top seed.

"Oh, it's going to happen," Self said. "A 16 is going to beat a one, eventually. Certainly, we don't want that to happen."

The warning has his team focused as they prepare for Friday's night matchup with Western Kentucky, a team that is exceptionally coached by Ray Harper and is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament.

The Hilltoppers have pulled off tourney upsets in the past and if all anyone wants to talk about is a potential Kansas/North Carolina battle, Sunday, they need not overlook the Hilltoppers. Among the Jayhawk players, there's no worry there.

"You know, they're a really aggressive, They're a really aggressive team," senior center Jeff Withey said. "For us to be able to win and get out on a lead, we definitely have to do the small things, like rebound. Defense is really important this time of the year."

Another storyline that tells of an almost assured high level of focus for Kansas will be the fact that for Withey, three other seniors and almost certainly redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore, any game during this tournament could mark their last in a Kansas uniform.

When confronted with that reality, it's little surprise that the only game in the spotlight is the one that will be played late Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City against Western Kentucky.

"I don't want to go home sad. These guys don't want to end their season prematurely, so we're going to go out and we're going to do what we do," Withey said, "We're going to play and we're going to play hard and we know that we know that we could have one more game, or we could have six more games. So, we're going to go out there and fight and we're going to make the most out of this."

The Hilltoppers come in at 20-15, but won all four games in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to earn the automatic bid. They appear to have caught fire at the right time, winning seven of their last eight.

Yes, they may be a 16 seed, but don't tell the players or Self that, as the Jayhawks coach is definitely an admirer of the Hilltoppers.

"Ray (Harper) has an athletic team, without question, a little bit unconventional compared to the teams we play. Most of the teams we play, their 6-10 guys are low post guys, whereas theirs (George Fant) is a guy that can stretch it. They play with an undersized post man, not a good player, a terrific player. It's a little bit different. They have a guard they play through that can obviously score the ball. They're both good and they're gonna get a lot better because they're young."

So, as many look ahead to Sunday, rest assured Kansas look to Friday night on what they hope will be the first step on another March journey and with that, the hope that the historic upset that their coach predicts will one day happen won't happen on this day.

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