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KU gets favorable draw as No. 2 seed in Midwest
spt ap KU Taylor
Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor says he would rather have a No. 1 seed than being close to home. - photo by The Associated Press

LAWRENCE — Kansas will be able to enjoy some home cooking on its path through the NCAA tournament.

Tyshawn Taylor would rather be enjoying a No. 1 seed.

The Big 12 regular-season champions wound up falling off the first line of the bracket after losing to Baylor in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Kansas ended up the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will play Horizon League champion Detroit in its first game.

"It's alright," said Taylor, the senior guard for the No. 3 Jayhawks. "I don't think it's what we played the whole season for, but it's not bad. I've been saying it for a while: Once you get to the tournament those seedings go away. It's about the matchups and things like that."

Things like where those matchups take place.

Kansas and Detroit will tussle in Omaha, Neb., about three hours by car from the Jayhawks' campus in Lawrence. It's the same site where they opened the NCAA tournament in 2008, when they wound up beating Memphis in an overtime thriller for their fifth national title.

"I'm kind of excited to be a 2 seed," said Connor Teahan, who was a freshman on that championship team. "The 1 seed didn't go over too well the last couple years. I think there was a little extra pressure. So I like this draw, but we still need to take care of business."

If the Jayhawks get by Detroit and a second-round game against Saint Mary's or Purdue, they'll head to St. Louis for the regional semifinals — another easy drive for their rabid fans.

And to add another element of intrigue, the No. 1 seed in their portion of the bracket is North Carolina, led by former Kansas coach Roy Williams.

"It's all about matchups, and if you look down the bracket, I think we match up with the teams really well," Taylor said. "I do like the path, man, but we have to take care of business."

Kansas (27-6) appeared to be in line for a No. 1 seed after going 16-2 in the round-robin meat-grinder of the Big 12, and after playing a brutal non-conference schedule that featured No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, Duke and Georgetown — a potential regional semifinal opponent.

But the Jayhawks stumbled in the semifinals of their conference tournament against Baylor, a team they had beaten twice before, and had to sit at home while Missouri claimed the title.

The Tigers and Jayhawks — acrimonious rivals, to say the least — will see each other in Omaha. Missouri is the No. 2 seed in the West Region and opens against Norfolk State.

"If you remember us in '08, us and K-State were up there together. That's one time our league really kind of bonded, and we cheered together," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Can't really see that happening. Two different leagues now, I guess."

The Tigers are off to the SEC after the win over Baylor in the Big 12 title game.

"I'm sure they're looking forward to sharing a venue with us," Self said with a grin.

All of those interesting subplots later in the tournament don't mean a whole lot if Kansas can't beat Detroit (22-13), and that's not necessarily a sure thing.

The Titans knocked off UCLA the last time they were in the NCAA tournament, and beat St. John's the year before that. They'll be making their first appearance since 1999.

"I've caught a lot of their games and they're a really good team," said Ray McCallum, the Titans' dynamic sophomore guard, who was actually recruited by Self to Kansas.

"It's a great opportunity for us to showcase our talent," McCallum said. "They like to get up and down the floor and we like to get up and down the floor."

Self said he's seen a little bit of the Titans, and knows a little bit more by reputation. He was quick to say that advancing to the third round is no sure thing.

"I think when you think of 2 and 15s in the past, you don't think of Detroit being on that line," Self said. "We recruited their best player, so I know that they're capable."

This will be the 23rd straight NCAA tournament appearance for Kansas, and the first time it has landed a No. 2 seed since 2003, when it lost to Syracuse in the national championship game.

The Jayhawks advanced to the round of eight last season before losing to NCAA tournament darling VCU, and were bounced in the second round the year before by Northern Iowa.

"What a great opportunity to play one of the most successful, winningest programs in basketball," Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. "We know everything. They're on TV all the time."