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Kansas' tournament run keyed by insistence on keeping it fun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kansas junior Wayne Selden became a basketball fan again during this year's NCAA tournament.

The Jayhawks forward made a point of watching more games than he ever did his previous two seasons. It's a break from the scouting reports and film sessions -- not to mention the social media and fan expectations -- that can make a team seeded No. 1 like Kansas feel on edge headed into Saturday's Elite Eight matchup with No. 2 seed Villanova.

Kansas coach Bill Self's move to keep it light started in the regular season. After the Jayhawks clinched their 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title, Self relayed an expression he'd picked up to his team.

"Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure."

Having advanced this far into the tournament, Kansas appears to be enjoying itself again.

"I don't know if that has anything to do with how, why we've played pretty well of late," Self said. "But I do think it's important this time of year to enjoy the moment. You've earned the right to enjoy this moment. You put yourself in a favorable position. Enjoy it, have fun. So that's kind of been our message."

Players in their down time -- and Saturday, they'll essentially have a full day with nothing to do while waiting for their 8:49 p.m. ET tip -- try to stay off their feet, so much of their entertainment comes from television, their smartphones and each another.

Freshman guard Lagerald Vick is established as the player who is best at impersonations, his specialty is the late comedian Bernie Mac. Freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr., is the one they sometimes have to rein in for being a little too overzealous. That happened in Friday's open locker room, where his willingness to contort his 6-foot-9 frame into a pretzel nearly ended with him falling on Jamari Traylor's legs.

It's easy to be a bit loose playing on the No. 1-ranked team that enters Saturday night's game with the nation's longest win streak at 17 games. There's a confidence born from accomplishment.

But the Jayhawks were accomplished the past two seasons, too. After winning those conference titles, Kansas was eliminated in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

"I feel like the last couple of years we didn't know how to respond some of the times, and that's when the pressure took a hold of us," Traylor said. "We just would be thinking about, 'Aw, man, we're the higher seed and we're in a bad position,' and stuff just didn't work out for us well. But this year we're just going out there playing, we know what's expected of us and are having fun while we're doing it."

What used to be work is now also viewed as fun. Junior guard Frank Mason III organized a players-only meeting in his hotel room to review the scouting report.

First the guards meet, then the entire team.

"It's just to really key in on stuff and really focus even more and get in-depth," Selden said. "It's to have everybody on the same page."

For Kansas, that's a lot easier to accomplish when it doesn't feel any pressure doing it.