March 17, 2013
The Jayhawks will be making their 24th-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, the longest-current streak in the nation, and will take on Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion Western Kentucky Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The Jayhawks, the 2012 national runners-up, are making their 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance and are a No. 1 seed for the 11th time since seeding began in 1979. The Jayhawks were a No. 1 seed in 1986, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Kansas boasts a 29-5 record this season under head coach Bill Self, including a league-best 14-4 mark in the Big 12 Conference. KU has won 10 of its last 11 games.
The Jayhawks are led by four seniors and freshman Ben McLemore. Two-time Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player Jeff Withey and McLemore each received first team all-league honors. McLemore leads the squad with 16.4 points per game, while Withey is posting 13.6 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per contest. KU’s all-time leading shot blocker also has 129 swats this season to rank No. 3 nationally. Seniors Travis Releford (11.5 ppg.), Elijah Johnson (10.1 ppg.) and Kevin Young (7.6 ppg.) round out the starting five for KU. Johnson owns a team-best 163 assists, while Releford leads the team with 42 steals.
Western Kentucky entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the No. 6 seed, after posting a 20-15 overall record and a 10-10 mark in league play, but claimed its second-straight league tournament title. This will mark the 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance for the Hilltoppers, including four in the last six seasons. WKU has also posted four combined NCAA Tournament wins in its last three appearances with at least one win each trip.
WKU sophomore guard T.J. Price, a 2013 Second Team All-Sun Belt selection, leads the Hilltoppers in scoring with 15.3 points per game and 79 made three-pointers. George Fant (12.9) and Jamal Crook (12.0) also average double-digit points for Western Kentucky, which averages 67.2 points per game as a team.
KU and WKU have met four previous times, twice in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas owns a 3-1 all-time series record against the Hilltoppers including a 75-62 victory in Allen Fieldhouse in the Preseason NIT to open the 1997-98 season. The Jayhawks also defeated WKU, 75-70, in Dayton, Ohio at the 1995 NCAA Midwest Regional. WKU claimed a 77-75 win in the 1971 NCAA Consolation game, while KU won the first game in the series, 104-81, during the 1969-70 season in Lawrence.
The winner of the Kansas-Western Kentucky game will face the victor of the No. 8 North Carolina – No. 9 Villanova contest on Sunday.