DALLAS (AP) -- The Kansas Jayhawks are heading into selection
Sunday with 14 wins in their last 15 games. Perhaps the only thing
better than finding out what seed that's earned them in the NCAA
Tournament is getting to avenge the only loss in that streak.
Mario Chalmers had 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds,
leading Kansas (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP) to an easy 79-65 victory over Nebraska in the
semifinals of the Big 12 tournament Saturday, setting up a showdown
with No. 8 Texas in the title game.
The Longhorns beat the Jayhawks 80-55 in Austin on Feb. 25. The
teams ended up tied for first place in the league standings, but
Texas got the No. 1 seed in this tournament by winning their lone
"It's a debate out there as to who's the best team in the
conference. It's time to settle who that is," Kansas freshman star
Brandon Rush said. "We're ready for it. It's going to be pretty
exciting. This time it's going to be on neutral ground so it'll be
a lot more even."
The only downside is that the game likely won't affect either
team's NCAA seed. It will end about the time the selection show
begins, making it tough for the result to be factored in, although
the committee certainly will keep tabs on it.
The Jayhawks (24-7) narrowly escaped the quarterfinals, beating
Oklahoma State by one point in a rough and tumble game that went
down to the buzzer. Russell Robinson came into this one with a
bandage over his right eye as a reminder of that game, but Kansas
ended up using the finesse of 3-point shooting to turn this one
into a rout before halftime.
A 13-2 run fueled by four 3s provided the cushion the Jayhawks
needed. Their lead peaked at 21 early in the second half and the
Cornhuskers (19-12) were never closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"I don't think we played with the same energy we did last
night," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But we made shots. ...
Yesterday we made three shots outside of 6 feet for the game.
Three. Today, if we did not make shots, it would have really been
an ugly offensive game."
The Cornhuskers ended a surprising run at an NCAA berth. The
loss likely turned the program's focus back to questions about
whether coach Barry Collier will keep his job.
Nebraska won only four of its last 11 games. The Huskers had
lost three straight before beating Missouri in the first round,
then upsetting Oklahoma (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 22 AP) in the quarterfinals.
"As far as I am concerned, I am the coach of Nebraska until I
hear different," Collier said. He then made a reference to
hopefully getting into the NIT field, then added, "That's where my
focus is going to be."
Kansas beat Nebraska by 42 and 21 in their previous meetings
this season, games that Collier had called "a nightmare and at
least a very bad dream."
Although the final margin was a little closer this time, it
certainly fit the same category.
Nebraska came out in a defense aimed to stop Rush, so Chalmers
took over instead, scoring or assisting on Kansas' first four
baskets. Then the Jayhawks busted Nebraska's zone by shooting over
it. The result was never in doubt after Kansas got rolling in the
The Jayhawks are headed to the finals of the Big 12 tournament
for the fifth time in the league's 10-year history. It'll be their
first appearance since 2002, and their first under Self. They
haven't won it since taking the first three, from 1997-1999.
For freshmen like Rush and Chalmers, or even sophomores like
Robinson and Jackson, the significance of Kansas' proud tradition
may be hard to grasp.
Right now, the only school history that matters to them happened
Feb. 25 in Austin.
"That was the biggest game we played all year. Our young
players didn't know what to expect," said Hawkins, a senior. "Now
they know what's going on and be a little more calm and focused. I
think we'll be ready for the challenge."
Jackson admitted to being scared and having the jitters before
playing Texas. He doesn't expect it to happen again.
"I am just going to have to play my game," he said.