Kansas has flopped in recent NCAA tournaments. A bunch of Matadors are hoping to add to those failures.
The Jayhawks haven't survived the second round in the last three tournaments, despite being seeded first, sixth and eighth. Kansas, seeded fourth this time, is a heavy favorite heading into today's Midwest first-round game in Dayton against Cal State Northridge, making its first appearance in the tournament.
It takes more than the memories of Wilt Chamberlain, Phog Allen and Danny Manning to scare the Matadors. After all, Northridge is located on a fault line.
"A lot of guys are going to be surprised with this game," Matador forward Carl Holmes said. "A lot of people are thinking, 'Oh, little Cal State Northridge — blowout.' No. I don't think so."
Holmes said his teammates have to get past their respect for one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country.
"Right now we need to get past the name Kansas," Holmes said. "They're beatable."Kansas Coach Criticized
More than anyone, Kansas coach Roy Williams has been stung by criticism of his team's early exits.
"I hope the tide's going to turn one of these days and we go a lot farther than anybody expects," he said.
In 1998, Kansas was seeded No. 1 and lost to eighth-seeded Rhode Island 80-75 in the second round. The next year the Jayhawks were a No. 6 seed and lost to third-seeded Kentucky in overtime. Last season, top-seeded Duke eliminated Kansas in the second round, 69-64.
From 1994 to 1997, the Jayhawks were seeded fourth, first, second and first, but made it to the regional finals just once.
"My freshman year we were the No. 1 seed and we were upset," senior center Eric Chenowith said. "So I know what it's like. I just want to make sure I never have that feeling again."Underdog Bravado
Upsets on the first day of the tournament served to fuel the bravado of the underdogs and catch the attention of the favorites. Fifth-seeded Ohio State and sixth-seeded Wisconsin fell in two of the early games.
"I don't think there's a favorite in this type of tournament," said Diego Guevara of Charlotte, which plays eighth-seeded Tennessee in the second game Friday at Dayton. "It's March Madness and anything can happen. I just think we can beat this team. That's what I focus on."
Top-seeded Illinois meets Northwestern State in the first game Friday in Dayton.
A No. 1-seeded team has never lost in 66 tries in the NCAA's current format, and has won by an average of 25 points.
But Northwestern State has the advantage of having already played on the University of Dayton floor, beating Winthrop 71-67 Tuesday night in a play-in game for the right to play the Illini.
"I think that helps us," Demons coach Mike McConathy said. "When a person is comfortable, he's going to be more productive. We're not just coming into the bright lights tomorrow. We were in the bright lights on Tuesday."
Hawaii meets Syracuse in the other first-round game. When the brackets were announced Sunday, the Rainbow Warriors were watching from their hotel in Tulsa where they had just won the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
"They didn't want to go to Boise. They didn't want to go to the cold altitude," coach Riley Wallace said. "So they cheered when someone else went to Boise. They also cheered when they got to come to Dayton."
They didn't cheer drawing Syracuse, a team that makes an annual pilgrimage to the NCAAs. Hawaii is making only its third appearance— as many as the Orangemen's juniors have made.A Rags to Riches Story?
But one upset isn't enough for some people.
"We are not a Cinderella story yet," Rainbows center Troy Ostler protested. "We need to win a few games and prove ourselves, and then people can start considering us a Cinderella team."
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