About 30 seconds before the NCAA Tournament selection show began Monday afternoon, the Kansas University soccer team had a hunch good news was coming.
As ESPN News ran a video montage previewing the tourney, a slew of KU highlights were shown alongside those of national powerhouses North Carolina and Penn State.
Huddled around a big-screen TV in the vacant Memorial Stadium press box, assumptions were confirmed minutes later when the Jayhawks erupted in cheers.
KU received a No. 8 seed and will play host to the first two rounds of the tournament. The Jayhawks will play Creighton on Friday afternoon at Jayhawk Soccer Complex. Also playing in Lawrence will be Nebraska and Oral Roberts.
The winners of the two games will meet Sunday.
The other seeded team in KU's eight-team section of the bracket is No. 9 Texas A&M;, the recent winner of the Big 12 Conference tournament title. The Jayhawks and Aggies each went 8-2 in conference play this season, but KU took the regular-season championship by winning the head-to-head meeting, 1-0.
Of the other seven potential opponents in the first three rounds, the Jayhawks have faced four this season: A&M;, Illinois, Nebraska and Creighton. But KU coach Mark Francis does not see that as a positive.
"I think it's better to play somebody you haven't played before," he said. "Whether you've beaten them or they beat you, there's always some kind of emotion there."
The Jayhawks scorched their first-round opponent, the Creighton Bluejays, 6-1 in an Aug. 21 exhibition match. However, Francis said he did not expect his team to look past Creighton after the Bluejays put together a solid season punctuated by a Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship.
The Jayhawks could have chances to avenge 1-0 losses against both Illinois and Nebraska.
Although Francis said he expected his team to be fully focused on the Bluejays, the tendency remains to look ahead to other teams on the Jayhawks' side of the 64-team bracket, most notably the No. 1 seed, defending national champion North Carolina.
"Caroline (Smith) and I were just talking in class, saying 'I just have this feeling we're gonna be in the same bracket," senior defender Stacy Leeper said. "Hopefully it comes through and we upset them."
Most importantly, though, is that the Jayhawks do not have to worry about being a seeded team and playing on the road. Last year, Kansas earned the No. 13 seed, and was forced to travel to, of all places, Columbia, Mo.
"For our Big 12 championship game, it was unbelievable with the amount of the support out there," senior goalkeeper Meghan Miller said. "As a senior coming off the field for that last game, I got chills. So, it's a big advantage."
Smith, Gault honored: Junior forward Caroline Smith and sophomore defender Holly Gault were named to the Big 12's All-Tournament team following the championship match. Smith scored two goals and had an assist in the Jayhawks' two tournament games, and Gault scored a goal and anchored the Kansas defense. It was the second time Smith earned the honor and the first for Gault.
|ThursdayNebraska (12-8-0)vs. Oral Roberts (13-5-1)Creighton (8-7-4) vs. Kansas (17-4-0)Saturday's gameNebraska-Oral Roberts winnervs. Creighton-Kansas winnerTimes to be announced.Tickets will go on sale today.Prices are $7 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens and $1 for children under five years old.Fans may purchase tickets on www.kuathletics.com or from theKU ticket office at (785) 864-3141.|