Oklahoma City Kansas University's basketball team won't be lacking for motivation today, and possibly through the weekend, at the 2007 Big 12 postseason tournament.
So says fourth-year coach Bill Self, who indicated the 27-4 Jayhawks would like to clip the nets on Sunday for the second time in eight days.
"We'd like to win two championships in our league, not just one," Self said Thursday shortly after the team bus pulled into the Marriott Oklahoma City hotel parking lot.
"Last year we got half of one (regular-season title) and a whole one (postseason tourney title). This year we've got a chance to win two whole ones. It's what we want to do. We know it'll be tough."
The 2007 Big 12 regular-season champs begin their quest for a second straight league postseason crown at 11:30 a.m. today in Ford Center. The quarterfinal foe is 16-14 Oklahoma, a 68-63 winner over Iowa State on Thursday.
"I think winning the tournament would put an exclamation point next to it," Self said of his squad's regular-season league accomplishment - a 14-2 conference record which proved one game better than runner-up Texas A&M.
"The tournament is very, very important to us. Any time you lace 'em up and the competition is stiff, you want to do your very best. It's also great preparation for the next week," he added of the NCAAs.
Of course, winning the Big 12 tournament would go a long way toward assuring the Jayhawks a No. 1 seed in the all-important Big Dance.
"It's great preparation for next week," Self noted. "You try to string a couple of really good games back to back. We need to play and get better, and whatever prepares us for the next week I'd be happy with."
One thing is close to certain: A loss in today's quarterfinals likely would cost the Jayhawks a top seed.
To move on and play in Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinals, the Jayhawks must down OU for the second time in two weeks. The Jayhawks blew a 17-point lead, but hung on to defeat the Sooners, 67-65, on Feb. 26 in Noble Center down the road in Norman.
"They made us sweat," Self said of the Sooners, who on Thursday were led by Nate Carter's 22-point outing.
"I watched that game today. I saw how hard Nate Carter was playing and thought to myself, 'That guy doesn't want it to end,' so I'm sure we'll get a great shot from them,'" Self added.
The Sooners, who also received 15 points from Tony Crocker and 11 apiece from Taylor Griffin and David Godbold, were without guard Michael Neal (flu), who is expected to play today.
The Sooners figure to have one more thing going for them today - more fans in the stands than the Jayhawks.
2006-07 March 8 OU Prev
- Bill Self spoke with the media Thursday as his team arrived in Oklahoma City
- KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend speaks after scouting Oklahoma, KU's Friday opponent, Thursday morning
- OU coach Jeff Capel, guard David Godbold and forward Nate Carter spoke with the media at Thursday's postgame press conference about their win over ISU and Friday's contest with KU
"Yes, yes," KU sophomore Brandon Rush said, asked if the Sooners had an advantage. "They've got all those fans coming in from 20 minutes away. I think they have a big advantage. We'll have some fans. Our fans come wherever we play, too."
Self agreed with Rush.
"I think OU will be the heavy favorite of the crowd," he said. "They'll have their fans. We'll have our fans, and they'll have everybody else's fans, at least K-State and Texas Tech (possible semifinal foes). I think it'll be a pro-OU crowd. That's OK. That's how NCAA Tournament games are."
¢ Arthur ready to go: Darrell Arthur, who has been slowed by a virus this week, practiced Thursday in Lawrence and took part in a walkthrough scouting session at the team hotel Thursday night.
"He practiced today full speed," Self said. "We held him out some, let him go five minutes at a time. He'll play tomorrow. I don't anticipate him playing a ton of minutes. He's definitely available and will play.
"I'd say 'Shady' would be happy playing against anybody. His focus has been his health this week. He had a rough week health-wise."
The rest of the team appears energized.
"We've got a lot of bounce right now, at least we have this week," Self said. "Hopefully it'll translate into a lot of bounce in the game. Usually when our team plays with great energy, we are pretty good. We didn't have that energy the first time we played OU."
¢ Honorees: KU's Julian Wright was named third-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Bill Self was named District 12 coach of the year.
¢ Home sweet home: Darnell Jackson, who scored four points and had three boards versus OU in the first meeting, will be playing before a batch of friends and relatives. He grew up in Oklahoma City.
"It's going to be fun," Jackson said, "because I get to be back home again and see my friends and family. So I'm just going to do the same thing - try to come back with a win."
He hasn't been pestered with calls for tickets.
"No, none at all. That's my mom. She's the head general with that, so you're going have to call her," he said. "I tell them, 'You've got to talk to mama, not me.' So I let her take care of all that."
KU junior Jeremy Case, meanwhile, hails from nearby McAlester.
"I think it's great. It's going to be fun to see my family again, and it's just like being at home," Case said.
¢ First meeting: KU freshmen Arthur and Sherron Collins didn't score in the first meeting between KU and OU. Mario Chalmers converted 10 of 12 free throws the second half to help KU pull out the two-point victory in KU's next-to-last conference game.
"One good thing is the game is fresh in our guys' minds," Self said. "I think we're ready. We practiced pretty well this week. We should be grounded and focused."
¢ Townsend impressed: KU assistant Kurtis Townsend scouted Thursday's OU-Iowa State game.
"Tony Crocker shot the ball well today," Townsend said of the OU guard, who hit three of four threes. "David Godbold made some threes (one of four). Austin Johnson is usually a good shooter. He didn't make them today (zero for three threes). He can stretch a defense and open it up for Nate Carter."
Carter hit 12 of 13 free throws and five of nine floor shots versus the Cyclones.