LAWRENCE — When Kansas' draw in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional had been announced Sunday night, the Jayhawks did exactly what their legion of loyal followers were doing at that very moment.
In other words, they were not thinking much about No. 16-seed Lehigh, No. 8-seed UNLV and No. 9-seed Northern Iowa, their pool of opponents as the No. 1 seed this weekend in Oklahoma City.
"First thought is 'Gee, Ohio State' or 'Gee, Georgetown, too,' " KU forward Marcus Morris said. "Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Tennessee, teams that beat us."
The Jayhawks, who were handed the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament by the selection committee, were done no favors other than their Oklahoma City-St. Louis route to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
No. 2-seed Ohio State is the Big Ten co-regular season champion and tournament champion and features Evan Turner, the likely national player of the year. No. 3-seed Georgetown just slapped 91 points on West regional No. 1 seed Syracuse in the Big East Tournament. No. 4-seed Maryland shared the ACC regular-season title, and No. 5-seed Michigan State shared the Big Ten regular-season crown.
"You wanna play competition like that," KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "It's hard to try not to look past that. We gotta take it one day at a time. If we don't, we could get beat. Everyone's coming to play this time of year. Everybody wants the same thing. Everybody wants a national championship."
Yes, even Lehigh, UNLV and Northern Iowa would like a shot at the big one. While KU coach Bill Self agreed with the national consensus that the Jayhawks had the toughest bracket of the No. 1 seeds, he cautioned that his team can't get ahead of itself thinking about potential second-weekend opponents.
"You don't play all those teams," Self said. "They play each other. We're not even concerned about that. I think we can get kind of carried away with the tournament if you look ahead. If you look too far ahead, you'll be preparing for something that there's a chance may not ever exist. You gotta stay in the present, and the present is this weekend."
Still, there was more than a bit of irony tucked away in the committee placing the last three teams to beat Kansas — Michigan State, Tennessee (No. 6 seed) and Oklahoma State (No. 7) —in KU's bracket. The Spartans, who could play the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16, beat Kansas in that round last season and also won in East Lansing.
To those teams, Morris has a message.
"We owe them something," Morris said.
Morris acknowledged that he knows he shouldn't be looking ahead, but this was only minutes after the selection show finished. The excitement of the road to the Final Four had taken over. Morris was even willing to take it one step further when asked which team he would like to play in the national championship game.
"Kentucky," Morris said. "We've been back and forth at one and two. It'd just be good to go against those guys. I just feel like we've been competing every game to see who's the better team."
Usually, one of the reasons that a No. 1 seed would not have much to say about its first game is that it hasn't seen the No. 16 seed play. But it just so happened that the Jayhawks had watched Lehigh win the Patriot League tournament championship over the weekend from their hotel rooms in Kansas City, Mo.
"I just like watching basketball," KU guard Sherron Collins said. "I never knew we would play Lehigh. I just watched it because it was on."
It may have been fun to do a little forecasting on Sunday night, but the Jayhawks know they will have their hands full with Lehigh and UNLV or Northern Iowa.
"They should be tough," Self said. "That's why it's your national tournament. Because all the teams are good."