Young Jayhawks make final preps for NCAA Tournament opener

SALT LAKE CITY As a program, the University of Kansas is unmatched when it comes to experience playing in the NCAA Tournament. This season marks the 30th consecutive season KU is in the Big Dance.

However, as a team, KU's roster is among the least experienced in the tournament field with the bulk of its active roster preparing for its first ever NCAA Tournament game Thursday afternoon against Northeastern in Salt Lake City.

In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, KU Head Coach Bill Self -- among the most experienced NCAA Tournament coaches in the field -- discussed challenges associated with the Jayhawks' youth.

"It's a different challenge for you guys that haven't had a chance to compete in the tournament before," Self says. "With us, we have only got two that have competed in it, Marcus (Garrett) and Mitch (Lightfoot). So even though we have transfers and some experience, it's all brand new to them as well."

Self says it's easy for teams to be enthusiastic and have the right mindset leading up to NCAA Tournament appearances, but there can be extra pressure when it comes to actually playing the game. Finding the balance between staying loose and maintaining focus can be challenging, he says.

"I think there is a balance, and experience does help with that," Self says. "We are doing all we can to make sure our guys are as loose as they can be and it should be a reward to play in the tournament and to go on and have fun."

Within Thursday's game a challenge the No.4 seed Jayhawks could face against No. 13 seed Northeastern is the Huskies' strength in shooting 3-pointers.

Self says prior games against Iowa State and Texas Tech where opponents got hot from deep serves as useful experience in preparation for Thursday.

Kansas and Northeastern tip off at 3 p.m. Thursday on TNT. If the Jayhawks win, they'll move on to Saturday's Midwest Regional quarterfinal against the winner of No. 5 seed Auburn and No. 12 seed New Mexico State.