DES MOINES, Iowa -- Kansas led by 18 points in the first half Thursday when coach Bill Self jumped out of his chair at Wells Fargo Arena.
“What are you doing?” Self screamed, followed by a few less friendly questions and exclamations.
The Jayhawks, seeded No. 1 overall, cruised to victory over No. 16 seed Austin Peay 105-79 in the NCAA tournament’s South region. The outcome was never in doubt, even as the Governors led after three minutes. Kansas had way too much size and skill.
And that’s the point of Self’s rant. He didn’t care about the score. He knows the Jayhawks, who have won 15 straight as they get ready for ninth-seeded Connecticut on Saturday, are capable of much more this year in the tournament than they’ve displayed in exiting the past two seasons in the round of 32.
“The last couple years,” Self said this week, “we haven’t been whole.”
Self’s 13th team at Kansas is “about as bought-in as I’ve ever seen.”
The Jayhawks are talented, too, and experienced, starting a senior, three juniors and a sophomore. Kansas’ front line of Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas manhandled Austin Peay, but that means little for the rounds ahead.
So many potential stumbling blocks in this region appear for even a complete team. It starts with UConn and extends to Villanova, Miami, Cal, Maryland, Arizona and Wichita State, the team that ended Kansas’ season last year.
Ellis and Lucas combined for 37 points. Kansas also received an impressive performance from 6-8 sophomore Svi Mykhailiuk, who buried three 3-pointers in the first half to get Kansas in sync and finished with a career-best 23 points. The Ukrainian sharpshooter came in averaging 5.2 points per game and might provide Kansas with a nice X factor in this tournament.
Not that the Jayhawks necessarily need more than what he has given all season. As Self suggested before play began in Des Moines, they are whole again.