Whether it's Roy Williams or Bill Self at the helm, the Kansas narrative of the last 20 years hasn't changed all that much.
First, the Jayhawks have a great regular season, camp out in the top five of the polls and grab a no. 1 or 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Then it goes to the Dance, makes a deep run, sometimes even gets to the Final Four -- but falls short of the summit. Recriminations in the heartland abound.
In fact, Kansas has been a top-three seed 14 times in the last 18 tournaments without winning it all. Perhaps it's fitting that the last Jayhawk national championship team, in 1988, was an underdog, a no. 6 seed that rode Danny Manning's coattails (plus saw every top seed fall in front of them) to earn the crown.
So, in that regard, 2008 isn't any different. Kansas is a worthy top seed that goes seven-deep with star talent and experience. At times, it simply crushed Big 12 opposition. Anything less than a trip to San Antonio will be seen as a profound disappointment.
Portland State, the Big Sky champs and a first-time participant in the Dance, is just happy to be on the floor. Once KU handles this small task in front of friendly fans in Omaha, it will meet Kent State or UNLV, and either could be a handful.
Having dominated the Mid-American Conference, the Golden Flashes bring balance and tough defense to the table. Meanwhile, the Runnin' Rebels defended its Mountain West title (playing at home in the tournament didn't hurt) behind a stout backcourt that included Wink Adams, who proves that there are other Winks in the world beside Mr. Martindale.
Vanderbilt built its no. 4 seed on a perfect home mark (19-0 in quirky Memorial Gym, where the benches are at the ends of the court) and the work of SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster, who can just go nuts if he has to. Aussie A.J. Ogilivy adds an inside presence for a Vandy team still burning over its Sweet 16 loss to Georgetown (did Jeff Green travel?) a year ago.