At very few schools around the country do players come in knowing four straight NCAA Tournament appearances will be all but guaranteed. Kansas is one of those few places, and senior guard Russell Robinson is preparing for his fourth and final run at an NCAA crown. It's been a strange three trips for him so far in his career, starting with two shocking first round losses to Bucknell and Bradley, then coming within a few points of a Final Four last year against UCLA. Here's what Robinson had to say before his team's Wednesday practice in preparation for Thursday's NCAA opener against Portland State in Omaha.
Ryan Greene: As well as you played Sunday (against Texas), how hard is that to carry over four days (into Thursday)?
Russell Robinson: We're still riding on that. That was a great win for us. But if you think we played well then, we're gonna play even better now. This is when the season really starts, what we've been preparing for all year. So everybody's pumped up, ready to come out with a lot of energy.
RG: How do you look at coming into an NCAA Tournament now compared to when you first did against Bucknell?
RR: I look at it a little differently. I'm not as nervous as I was before, more excited now, especially with the talent we have, I'm even more pumped up. Our chances look really good, and it's going to take a conscious effort from everybody to play well.
RG: What do you remember about your first NCAA Tournament? You said you were nervous, when did it first really hit you when you got there?
RR: My first year in the tournament, I filled out brackets, I was looking at it all day, I was really caught up in the moment, and it really made me even more nervous. But now I didn't fill out a bracket, I don't know about any other teams, don't care about any other teams other than the team we play against. And I'll let everything else play itself out.
RG: Do you tell any of the young guys not to do some of the things that you did, like fill out brackets?
RR: Everybody has their own way of doing things, and I try not to force my opinion on other people, but from what I've seen so far, I haven't seen anybody fill out a bracket or antyhing, so that's pretty good.
RG: Is that bad luck for a basketball palyer to fill out a bracket?
RR: I think it takes away from the focus of the game for a lot of reasons, I think it forces guys to look ahead, not live in the moment and that type of thing. I was telling all of my teammates yesterday, I had a lot more fun in high school with the NCAA Tournament because I filled out brackets, watched every game. Now it's a lot more stressful, not as fun.
RG: Is it hard not to pick yourself?
RR: You gotta pick yourself. All you can worry about is the game you play, let everything else play itself out.
RG: Portland State's got Jeremiah Dominguez, a little guy. Guards who are small like that, how do you match up on that?
RR: When guards are small like that, they get a slight advantage I think when they play against bigger guards like myself. Because they're so little, any bump here, any bump there might be a foul. From what I hear, he's really talented with the ball, and it's gonna take a conscious effort from everybody to guard him.
With all the fanfare given to the style points fellow backcourt mates Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Brandon Rush can supply, Russell Robinson's efforts sometimes go overlooked. But one thing he has more than almost anyone in KU's guard set is experience, especially in the NCAA Tournament. He's suffered the sting of first round exits twice and has come so close to the Final Four he could see the snippets of net in his hands. Every bit of the 7.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals he averages will be needed for KU to take the next step in his final March foray.