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Tulsa Notebook

In the Barack bracket

Jayhawks are hoping to make president a winner

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / March 18, 2011

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TULSA, Okla. — After losing in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Kansas will have some inherent pressure as the top seed of this year’s Southwest Regional.

But President Barack Obama may have put a little more pressure on the Jayhawks by selecting them to go all the way in his bracket.

“I think he picked us last year also,’’ said senior guard Brady Morningstar. “Shows how much he knows, I guess, right?’’

The Jayhawks ruined the Commander-in-Chief’s bracket a year ago by bowing out to Northern Iowa, 69-67, in the Midwest Regional.

“Just because he said that doesn’t mean he can make us win, so I don’t feel any added pressure from him,’’ said Morningstar. “But I’d like to go and meet him in a couple of weeks. That would be pretty fun.’’

Even though 16th-seeded Boston University is first on Kansas’s dance card, the Terriers expressed no objections to the president’s pick to click.

“They’re the obvious favorite,’’ said BU junior guard Matt Griffin. “So if you’re filling out a pool or a bracket, I don’t blame him. That’s fine by us.’’

“No disrespect to the president,’’ said senior guard John Holland, “but I’m not really focused on his bracket. I’m just pretty much focused on us and what we have to do.’’

Inspiration or not? While 13th-seeded Morehead State’s 62-61 victory over fourth-seeded Louisville yesterday marked the first upset of the tournament, it didn’t seem to resonate for the Terriers, who will be looking to make history by becoming the first No. 16 seed to topple a No. 1 in the men’s tourney.

“Morehead State played an excellent game,’’ Griffin said. “They’re a great team. So is Louisville, and so is every team in this tournament. But we came out here really just to compete and worry about getting better.’’

While it might not provide added motivation for the Terriers, Kansas coach Bill Self hopes it gives his team “that extra juice.’’

Before arriving in Tulsa, Self had an assistant place press clippings of Northern Iowa’s victory over Kansas last year in the players’ lockers.

“We’ve already seen today in the tournament, I mean, this is wild,’’ Self said. “Expect the unexpected.

“Certainly, if anybody has lived out all ends of the spectrum, we probably have, because we lost in the first round a couple of times [in 2005 and 2006] and we’ve cut down the nets. I don’t know if there are too many people who can say they’ve done all those things.’’

For what it’s worth, those last two teams to defeat Kansas in the first round — Bucknell and Bradley — had something in common: their schools’ initials are “BU.’’

Loyalty isn’t divided Tulsa proved to be a fortuitous draw for Memphis coach Josh Pastner, an Arizona alum whose Tigers will play his alma mater today. “I love Arizona,’’ said Pastner. “I was there for 12 years. Loved every second being there. Got a bachelor’s and a master’s from there. Was part of great wins there and some of my best friends are there in Tucson. But the facts are I bleed blue and gray. I love where I’m at. I’m all about Memphis. I do stay up late at night and watch the Arizona games on TV, and I root for Arizona when they’re playing in the Pac-10. This will be the one time I’m not rooting for them.’’ . . . Hockey coach Jack Parker was part of the BU contingent that traveled to Tulsa. He watched from courtside as the Terriers practiced last evening. Parker traveled once before with the BU basketball team, in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, to watch the 15th-seeded Terriers lose to second-seeded Duke, 85-69, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.