Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jayhawk faithful take no chances

Superstitions trump the odds when title on the line

March 22, 2007

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— Don't tell Todd Guerrieri that he's overconfident.

Just because the Kansas University graduate shelled out $1,400 for four tickets to Saturday's regional final doesn't mean that he's taking anything for granted, heading into tonight's Sweet 16 game against Southern Illinois.

But the numbers tell a different story: Kansas is the third-winningest program in NCAA Division I history, the Salukis have never advanced to the Elite Eight and the line in Las Vegas favors the Jayhawks by nine points.

"We're a No. 1 seed. We should beat a No. 4," said Guerrieri, a '98 KU grad now working in San Jose as a software consultant. "But we're not overconfident. The game plan for us is we won't talk about Saturday. We can't even think anything about it.

"As superstitious and as stupid as that sounds, that's what we're doing."

Guerrieri, his buddy and fellow KU grad Jeff Fay and their wives may be giving the future the silent treatment, but they're among legions of KU fans facing the same quandary these days in San Jose: Just how to avoid overlooking tonight's game and ahead to a potential clash against either UCLA or Pittsburgh for a ticket to the Final Four.

Julian Wright, a sophomore forward, reminds folks that this is the first Sweet 16 for all players on the Kansas roster.

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"We're just trying to be focused, knowing that you've got to go out there and earn it," he said, before Wednesday afternoon's public practice at HP Pavilion. "It's not going to be given to us. We've learned that."

Jay Bilas, a former Duke player calling the game as an analyst for CBS, said that while the fans can do whatever they want - "They can sleep in their jocks if they want to," he said, "because that's not going to affect the players" - the Jayhawks in uniform had better be prepared.

"You need to play every game like it's a championship game," Bilas said. "If you lose, you won't have a chance at playing in the championship game."

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