After suffering devastating first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament the past two years, it's understandable if Kansas University basketball fans approach tonight's game with apprehension.
But KU has history and statistics on its side when the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks face No. 16 Niagara.
In fact, the odds are 100 to 1 that Niagara would win tonight, said Hal Stern, a statistics professor at University of California-Irvine.
"I'm not sure I still believe (those odds)," Stern said.
No top-seeded team has lost an opening round game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, giving No. 1s a 90-0 record over 16th-seeded squads, including Thursday's games.
But one Las Vegas oddsmaker said the chances of Kansas losing a first-round game are better this year than in the past.
Mike Seba, senior oddsmaker with Las Vegas Sports Consultants, said the average point spread in favor of No. 1 seeds in the first round is in the mid-20s; KU is favored to defeat Niagara by 19.
Still, smart money is on KU, even though Niagara is a stronger-than-usual No. 16 seed.
"It's a tougher opponent than Kansas should have," Seba said.
Barb Clinger, associate pastor at Lawrence's First United Methodist Church, said church leaders are so confident KU will win tonight that they rescheduled meetings on Sunday in anticipation of a second-round game.
2006-07 March 15 KU NCAA prev
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She said she doesn't hear about churchgoers praying for a KU victory, and she's not sure it would do much good.
"God," she said, "doesn't respond to those kinds of prayers."
But what if KU does lose tonight?
Jim Williams, a Lawrence resident and KU fan, watched Niagara play Tuesday and thought they looked good.
"I think (fans) might call for Bill Self's hide, especially being the first in history to lose to a 16 seed," Williams said. "But it ain't going to happen."
The odds are against it.
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