Kansas is staying in the same hotel, playing in the same arena in the same city where the Jayhawks began the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
And we know how that turned out.
Bill Self smiles at the thought.
“I’m not superstitious at all,” the KU coach said as he takes his No. 2-seed Jayhawks against Detroit into tonight’s first-round game. “Just a joke. I’m very superstitious.”
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Either he hasn’t noticed or it doesn’t matter to him that the host arena for the Omaha pod has changed names since the Jayhawks won the national title four years ago. What was once the Quest Center is now the CenturyLink Center.
But what is very different from 2008 is the Jayhawks’ inside depth.
Four years ago there was Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson a force inside with plenty of help from Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich to a lesser extent.
Now come today’s Jayhawks.
There are the formidable Thomas Robinson and 7-footer Jeff Withey. And that’s pretty much it.
Now, lack of depth in the tournament isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With longer TV timeouts, fatigue is rarely a factor.
But when it comes to injuries or foul trouble, it can be a problem.
Enough to make even a superstitious coach nervous. But Self has on his game face.
“The timeouts are long so most coaches short their bench a little bit this time of year,” he said.
With KU, there’s not much to shorten. Actually, Jayhawks are trying to stretch their bench.
For much of the year it’s been a six-man rotation with guard Conner Teahan coming off the bench.
Self makes a case that he has confidence in going seven deep by adding forward Kevin Young.
“We have played some of our best ball lately with Kevin in there,” Self said.
He isn’t so sure about his other inside reserve, Justin Wesley.
Both Young and Wesley are transfers and have been slow to pick up the details of what Self wants.
Specifically, play defense like your life depends on it. Young is starting to figure it out, but his skinny 6-8 frame is easily shoved around.
But Self sees a light beginning to glow. He’s averaged 14 minutes the last seven games, a bump up from his season average (11).
“I’m getting more confident,” Young said. “Defense and rebounds, I can do that. I have to pay close attention to see how the game is going, how the foul calls are being made, so I can be ready when I go in.”
Robinson and Withey have had their foul woes this year, although they’ve only fouled out a combined three times.
Self said he doesn’t want Robinson to get into a habit of playing not to foul.
“I never talk to him about avoiding foul trouble, because if you talk about not fouling, in his mind he might think of that as not guarding because the best way not to fouls to not get close to your man,” Self said. “Thomas fouls, if you really study him. He’s just not getting his money’s worth on his fouls.
“His fouls are ticky-tack even though he’s not getting many of them. I wish he was more aggressive and was playing his man aggressively. I truly believe aggressive guys commit less fouls.”
Playing aggressive is the only way to survive if you want to dance for long in this tournament.
“I’ll be there to do whatever we need,” Young said. “Thomas has to play his game and not be concerned whether someone has his back. I’ve got his back.”