No. 1 seeds become regular occurrence under Bill Self at Kansas

By Gary Bedore

Bill Self’s Hall of Fame coaching resumé includes one national title, one NCAA runner-up finish, 14 Big 12 regular-season crowns, eight conference tourney titles ... and eight No. 1 seeds in 15 NCAA Tournaments at Kansas.

Eight. That’s not a typo. KU has had a stranglehold on top seeds in more than half of the postseason tourneys during Self’s tenure at KU. However, the previous seven No. 1 seeds have produced one Final Four appearance.

The Jayhawks, who will take a 27-7 record into Thursday’s first-round Midwest Regional contest against the No. 16 seed Penn Quakers (24-8), have staked claim to three consecutive No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Tipoff Thursday is 1 p.m. at Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena on TBS.

KUs two previous two No. 1 seeds in the current streak resulted in season-ending losses to Oregon and Villanova in the Elite Eight.

The history books show Kansas has secured four No. 1 seeds in the past six years, six in the last nine campaigns and eight in the past 12 seasons. KU has been seeded No. 2 three times, No. 3 twice and No. 4 twice in the Self era.

That’s right. Under Self, KU has never entered the tourney lower than a 4 seed.

“It’s definitely an accomplishment,” KU senior point guard Devonté Graham said of the latest seeding. “You get to play closer to home and the fans can travel and you kind of have a little bit of a homecourt advantage. You definitely want to try to get the No. 1 seed and try to play as close to home as possible.”

As a No. 1 seed in 2013, KU went 2-1, losing to Michigan in the Sweet 16. In 2011, KU went 3-1, losing to VCU in the Elite Eight. In 2010, KU went 1-1, losing in the second-round to Northern Iowa. In 2008, KU went 6-0 as a No. 1 and stormed to the NCAA title. And in 2007, KU went 3-1 and lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight.

As a No. 2 seed, KU went 1-1 in 2015, losing to Wichita State in the second round; 1-1 in 2014, losing to Stanford in the second round; and 5-1 in 2012, losing to Kentucky in the NCAA title game.

“I don’t know,” Self said, asked the difference between a 1 and 2 seed. “Maybe a little bit of attention, maybe for a recruiting mailout for three days. I really don’t know if there’s a huge difference.

“We went to the Final Four in 2008 when we were a 1 seed and we went to the Final Four in 2012 when we were a 2 seed. We’ve had opportunities to go play our best ball right now.”

It all adds up to Self’s Jayhawks compiling a 21-6 record as a 1 seed; a 7-3 mark as a 2 seed; a 2-2 mark as a 3 seed (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State in 2009 and first-round loss to Bucknell in 2005); and 3-2 mark as a 4 seed (first-round loss to Bradley in 2006; Elite Eight loss to Georgia Tech in 2004).

“We’ve been really good when we are good and very average or worse when we haven’t been,” Self said, assessing this current KU squad. “I like this team. We’ve had some good teams going into the tournament. I think this is one of those good teams.”

Senior leader Graham says he wants to see his third No. 1 seed (the Jayhawks were a 2 seed his freshman year) result in a trip to San Antonio and the Final Four.

“It’s definitely something you think about, falling short in back-to-back years,” Graham said. “Getting over that hump in the Final Four is something we want to do. They (Penn Quakers) will be extra pumped. We need to make sure everybody is ready to play and not come out flat. We’ll be focused.

Of defeating Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia at — and winning — the Big 12 tourney, Graham said, “This past weekend helped a lot with confidence."

Self says he’s only thinking about Penn right now, not a potential third consecutive Elite Eight contest.

““It probably would (be extra motivation to advance) if we're fortunate enough to get to that moment again,” Self said of the Elite Eight. “People talk like that. Yes, it can be motivation. But each team is so different.

"I mean, this team is nothing like last year's team. The motivation, obviously, for Svi (Mykhailiuk) and Devonté and Lagerald (Vick) may be different for what it may be for all the rest of our guys who have never been through that.”

Graham a Naismith finalist

Kansas senior point guard Devonté Graham has been named one of four finalists for the 50th James A. Naismith Trophy, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Tuesday. Other finalists: Deandre Ayton (Arizona), Marvin Bagley III (Duke) and Jalen Brunson (Villanova).

The trophy will be presented during the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 1 at Pearl Stable in San Antonio.

In the past 10 days, Graham has been named Big 12 Player of the Year, All-Big 12 first team, one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award and All-America first team by The Sporting News, and the USBWA. He's also on the Wooden Award Final Ballot.

Former KU guard Frank Mason won the Naismith Trophy last season. Danny Manning was the 1988 recipient.

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