LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KU ATHLETICS) – In preparations for the NCAA Championship Sweet Sixteen starting on Thursday in Louisville, the top-seed Jayhawks are treating No. 5 seed Maryland like a No. 1 seed.
“I’ve said this before, because it’s happened with one of my teams before,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said during Wednesday’s media session. “When you’re ranked in the top five for a good portion of a season – at least multiple weeks – that means you have shown everybody that you can play to a No. 1-seed level. Even though Maryland is seeded fifth, our guys understand they can play to a one seed. So this is a hard — this is really a hard matchup, because we really think a lot of their team.”
No. 18/17 Maryland (27-8) maintained a top-10 ranking for nearly the entire season until late February – after losing four of its last six regular-season games. The Terrapins feature one of the most talented starting lineups in the country, led by sophomore guard Melo Trimble’s 21.0 points per game and junior forward Robert Carter’s 10.0 rebounds per game.
“They’re a great group. One through five, they can score the ball,” Kansas senior forward Jamari Traylor added. “They do a great job with their guards of getting shots. Melo is pretty good coming off of ball screens so we’ve got to shrink the floor, help out on him, and we’ve just got to make it tough on them to score. We’ve just got to play physical, and that’s what’s got us here and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
SELF SHOWS APPRECIATION
In the media sessions leading up to Thursday’s NCAA Regional Semifinals, Coach Self also took a moment to appreciate his current team that won a 12th-straight Big 12 regular season title and are riding a 16-game winning streak into the weekend.
“I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed coaching a collective group more than what I have this year just because it’s fun for them,” Self said.
TURGEON PREFERS LARGER STAGE TO FACE ALMA MATER
Former Jayhawk Mark Turgeon, who played under Larry Brown in the mid-1980s, will be facing his alma mater for the seventh time in his head-coaching career. Turgeon went 0-6 against Kansas while at Texas A&M from 2007-11.
“The Kansas thing is not that weird to me anymore or unique,” Turgeon said. “It was a little bit that way the first time we played. Being at Texas A&M, we played them a lot. You get used to it. I’d rather play them in a national championship game than a Sweet 16 game, but here we are so we’ll play it. It is what it is.”