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October 22, 2006

Jayhawks and Self must avoid upset bug

Tubby on the hot seat
Preseason Top 25
The College Basketball Wire

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Rivals.com selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 17 storyline focuses on Kansas coach Bill Self and his mega-talented squad.

Can a coach who has won a share of two regular-season titles in the Big 12, captured a tournament title and gone 48-15 in the last two years be on the hot seat? If he can't guide his team out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament this season, the answer may surprise you.

Despite Bill Self's impressive record in his three years at Kansas (he's gone 72-24), there is real pressure on the former Illinois coach because of the Jayhawks' first-round flops in the last two NCAA Tournaments.

Bucknell, a No. 14 seed, pulled off a shocking upset over a veteran-laden Kansas squad in 2005, ending the Jayhawks' streak of 21 consecutive first-round wins. It was the first time a Patriot League team won an NCAA Tournament game.

Last season, an extremely talented but young Kansas team rolled into the Big Dance as the hottest team in the nation. The Jayhawks had won 15 of their last 16 games, all against Big 12 teams. They landed a No. 4 seed and were picked by many analysts to reach the Final Four. However, Bradley raced out to a 14-point lead in the second half and held on for a 77-73 upset.

Any type of repeat performance won't be acceptable in Lawrence.

Self has his most talented team. The top seven scorers are back, including sophomore forwards Brandon Rush and Julian Wright - the Preseason Big 12 co-Players of the Year as voted on by the coaches.

With the additions of highly touted freshmen Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur, the roster now includes seven five-star recruits - the most of any team in the nation.

Collins, a McDonald's All-American, is an explosive and powerful force. He joins a backcourt that is already the class of the league. Point guard Russell Robinson was the team's third leading scorer at 9.7 points per game. The versatile Mario Chalmers led the league in steals as a freshman (2.7 per game).

Arthur, who was also a McDonald's All-American, could start immediately and provide the lift Kansas missed last season. The Jayhawks lacked a proven scorer on the inside, and the big man from Dallas has tremendous offensive skills. Arthur's shooting range is about 18 feet, and his athleticism should be a major asset in transition.

The overwhelming amount of talent on the team means the Jayhawks should be able to capture a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. If that is the case, they should avoid a first-round exit this season. A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the men's tournament.

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