No. 1 seed Kansas (32-4) has advanced to the NCAA Championship Sweet 16 for the 24th time in school history and the second time under head coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks are coming off an 88-76 win against Kentucky, in capturing its 75th all-time victory in the NCAA Tournament. KU will play No. 4 seed Southern Illinois (29-6), Thursday, March 22, at 4:10 p.m. (Pacific) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The Salukis defeated Virginia Tech 63-48 to advance to San Jose.
These two teams are among the elite in terms of victories since the 2001-02 season. Kansas' 158 wins since 2001-02 are fifth nationally, while SIU's 155 are eighth. Additionally, it will be a battle of conference champions as Kansas won its 50th overall and seventh Big 12 regular-season title in 2007, while SIU won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship.
Kansas' current 13-game winning streak is the longest of the season. At 32-4, the Jayhawks have posted the most school victories since the 2002 team went 33-4 and advanced to the Final Four in Atlanta. The Jayhawks' 32 victories are the most in the Bill Self era while at KU. Kansas averages 79.5 points per game and is giving up 61.6. The Jayhawks are outrebounding foes 40.4 to 33.1 per game and hold a 49.4 to 37.3 field goal percentage edge. KU is a young team, as its top five scorers are sophomores and freshmen. Seven Jayhawks earned postseason Big 12 accolades in 2006-07. Sophomore guard Brandon Rush, an All-Big 12 First Team selection each of the last two seasons, leads Kansas in scoring at 13.8 points per game and with 73 three-point field goals made. He was a career-best 6-for-7 from beyond the arc against Kentucky Sunday. Sophomore guard Mario Chalmers, the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, is next in scoring with a 12.6 average. Chalmers leads the Big 12 with 2.5 steals per game, including four versus Kentucky. Sophomore forward Julian Wright, an all-league first team selection along with Rush, leads KU with 8.0 rebounds a game and is scoring 12.3 points per contest. He is second on the team with 49 blocked shots, behind freshman forward Darrell Arthur's 54. Arthur is scoring 10.0 points per contest, while freshman guard Sherron Collins is at 9.8 points per game. Arthur and Collins were each named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and to the Big 12 All-Rookie team. Junior guard Russell Robinson, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award and member of the Big 12 All-Defensive team, leads KU with 157 assists in addition to his 7.1 scoring average. He is second on the team with 65 steals. Juniors Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson round out the regulars for KU. Kaun, the starting center and an Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, is scoring 6.1 points per game, while Jackson, a forward, is averaging 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per outing off the bench.
About Southern Illinois
The Salukis are making their sixth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. They are appearing in their third Sweet 16 in school history (1977, 2002) but have never made it to the Elite Eight. SIU has set a school record with its 29 victories in 2006-07. The Salukis allow just 56.1 ppg, which ranks third in the nation. Home to the 2007 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year (Chris Lowery), Player-of-the-Year (Jamaal Tatum) and Defensive Player-of-the-Year (Randal Falker), SIU's No. 4 seed is the highest in school history. Lowery is the youngest coach in the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year and is the first SIU coach to win 20 games in each of his first three seasons. SIU averages 63.1 ppg, while shooting 45 percent from the field. The Salukis have made 218 three-pointers on 37.1 percent shooting this season. Southern Illinois averages 29.9 rpg, has a +1.5 rebounding margin and are 17-1 when they outrebound opponents. SIU averages 11.6 assists and 14.0 turnovers per game. Senior guard Jamaal Tatum leads the team in scoring at 15.1 ppg and shoots 42.2 percent from three-point range. Junior forward Randal Falker is second on the team, averaging 12.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 2.1 bpg. Junior forward Matt Shaw averages 11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg and is an 81.1 percent free-throw shooter. Junior guard Tony Young averages 9.8 ppg, is an 85.1 percent shooter from the free throw line and shoots 38 percent from three-point range. Sophomore guard Bryan Mullins leads team with 124 assists and 47 steals while averaging 6.5 per contest.
Kansas vs. Southern Illinois
Kansas and Southern Illinois are meeting for the first time in men's basketball. SIU will be the ninth Missouri Valley Conference foe Kansas will have played in men's hoops, with the Salukis and Indiana State having yet to play the Jayhawks. A member of the MVC from 1908 until 1928, KU is 52-12 against current membership of the MVC - Bradley (0-1), Creighton (9-6), Drake (22-3), Evansville (3-0), Illinois State (1-0), Missouri State (4-0), Northern Iowa (1-0) and Wichita State (12-2). The Jayhawks last faced a MVC foe when it fell to Bradley in the opening round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament 77-73 last year in Auburn Hills, Mich.