Off to the Motor City

It's off to Detroit for the Sweet 16. After winning two games in Omaha, Neb., KU coach Bill Self and his players are approaching Detroit as another two-game tournament.

No. 1 seed KU (33-3) will face No. 12 Villanova (22-12) at 9:40 (EST) Friday night at Ford Field. If the Jayhawks win, they’ll advance to Sunday in the Elite Eight, where they’ll play the winner of the Wisconsin-Davidson game.

You can bet the Jayhawks won’t be daydreaming about the Final Four in San Antonio during this business trip.

“You don’t look ahead,” Bill Self said before a late-afternoon practice on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse. “Your preparation is to give yourself the best chance to win over a 48-hour period. That’s going to be our guys’ mindset.”

KU will be playing in the home of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, which seats 72,818. This will obviously be a unique experience for Kansas playing in a dome stadium. Self, though, isn’t too concerned about the venue.

“I haven’t even thought about talking (to the players) about (playing in) a big venue,” he said. ‘”It’s something I’ve never seen. I’ve never been in a middle of a dome at the 50-yard line and looked around and seen how big it is. We’ll just have to wait until we get there. We’ll have two practices in it before we actually play.”

“We’re not going to make a big deal out of it,” Self added. “Both teams are shooting at the same baskets. Hopefully, we'll keep shooting the ball the way we’ve been shooting it, but if we don’t shoot it well, we’re not going to blame it on the depth perception.”

Self is more concerned about improving the team’s play than competing in a dome.

“The message (to the players) is we have to get better,” he said. “We can’t be content where we are. There’s definitely some things we can improve on, we need to have fresh minds and fresh legs. We talk about distractions all the time, and this is a time where you definitely don’t need them. Just stay focused and try to get better because our guys understand that we’re not playing a 12 seed. They’re playing a team that’s seeded 12th because of where they finished in the Big East. But the Big East was a monster, they’re playing right now to a much higher seed.”

Villanova, which went 9-9 in the Big East, has won five of its last six games, including two victories over Clemson and Siena to advance to the Sweet 16.

Self isn’t exactly pleased with playing such a late game.

“That is a ridiculous start time for anyone to play, but that’s the way it is,” he said. “There’s two teams that have to play at that time. We’ll figure out some way to try to keep them active and keep them loose. (We’ll) try to let them sleep as long as they can that morning and make it as short a day as possible.”

Sophomore guard Sherron Collins likely won’t be 100 percent with a bruised left knee, which he suffered in practice last Tuesday. However, the injury certainly won’t keep him out of action.

“It’s still sore, but it’s something I can play with,” Collins said.

“I do think the extra day may help,” Self added about KU playing Friday instead of Thursday.

Self said all the attention on KU since the beginning of the season has helped the Jayhawks become battle-tested, which he hope pays off in Detroit. Self commented this is a much different team than two years ago, when the ‘Hawks were under the radar most of the season and entered the high-pressured NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed. The Jayhawks lost to Bradley in the first round.

“I think it’s good being ranked high ... and being a one seed,” Self said. “I think all those things are good because it puts subtle pressures on you all the time to perform. I like being ranked high (in) preseason and those sorts of things because it gets guys used to playing under pressure. That team (in 2006) never had the opportunity the whole year.”

Junior guard Brandon Rush, a freshman on the 2005-06 team which lost to Bradley, said the Jayhawks definitely have a different feeling during this tournament than the previous two years.

‘”I’m thinking that maybe this is the year,” Rush said. “We got the special team to do it, and we’re playing our best basketball right now.”