NCAA Midwest: All you need to know about Kansas, Providence, Miami and Iowa State

It’s Jayhawks-Friars followed by Hurricanes-Cyclones in Friday’s Sweet 16 matchups at the United Center.

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Bill Self with his Kansas players at Thursday’s practice.

AP Photos

Sweet — the NCAA Tournament has come to our charming little outpost.

“I love Chicago,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who was at Illinois from 2000 to 2003.

The Jayhawks, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, take on No. 4 Providence in the first of two games on Friday. No. 10 Miami and No. 11 Iowa State go in Game 2. The winners meet Sunday with a Final Four spot in the balance.

“It feels amazing to be here,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley, in the Sweet 16 for the first time. “The United Center. The building Mike built.”

As in Michael Jordan, not Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf or his pops, Jerry Michael Reinsdorf. You know, just to be clear.

Sixteen things to know about the players, coaches and teams getting ready to light up the UC:

1. Self involved: This is Self’s 13th time in the Sweet 16 and his 11th with Kansas. The Jayhawks are 8-2 in these games under a guy some Illinois fans still haven’t forgiven for leaving. The Illini not getting back to the Sweet 16 since 2005 might have a little something to do with it.

2. So close, it’s crazy: A win Friday would be the 2,354th in the history of Kansas basketball, which started all the way back in the 1890s under some fellow by the name of — hang on a sec while I look this up — James Naismith. Why bring this up now? Because KU is tied for the most with Kentucky at 2,353, and the Wildcats, as you know, are out of the tournament.

3. Speaking of close: Providence is so good in games decided by five points or less, it’s actually kind of nuts. The Friars — first-time Big East regular-season champs and in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 25 years — are 11-2 this season in those games. And over the last nine seasons? They’re 68-27. No wonder I voted for Cooley for AP Coach of the Year.

4. Friar learning: Another reason Providence plays with such maturity when it counts? It has four graduate students — Nate Watson, Al Durham, Noah Horchler and Justin Minaya — in its starting five. The baby of the lineup is A.J. Reeves, a senior.

5. Now this is an oddity: Providence hoops goes back to 1926, but somehow the Friars and Jayhawks have never met on the court until now. Strange considering how often Kansas has played St. John’s (14 times), Villanova (nine) and some of the other Big East long-timers. See? And KU fans thought they’d seen it all.


Providence’s Ed Cooley

AP Photos

6. Cooley, dude: One thing you won’t be able to help but notice if you’re unfamiliar with Cooley is the back of his head; due to a skin condition, he has a few different bald patches that make for an unusual look. But he has been around a long time, won a ton of games and made many a friend with quotes like this one at Thursday’s media conference:

“Guess what, doubters? Providence is in the damn building, and I’m proud of these kids. Drop the mic.”

7. Yes, that Charlie Moore: Still shaking and baking is former Morgan Park star Moore, who is at his fourth school and in his sixth season. First he went to California, then to Kansas, then to DePaul and now to Miami, where he has made a huge impact.

“I’m trying to take it one moment at a time,” he said.

That’s a whole lot of moments.

8. Yes, that Jalen Coleman-Lands: Miami has two other sixth-year starters in Kameron McGusty and Sam Waardenburg. Providence, as mentioned, is an old team. But Kansas’ Coleman-Lands “hold my beers” them all. After two years at Illinois, three (one of which he sat out, another of which was undone by injury) at DePaul and one at — yep — Iowa State, the one-time John Groce signee is having a final go-round with Self (and working on a second master’s degree) at the advanced age of 25.

9. Worlds colliding: Not only did Moore play at Kansas and Coleman-Lands at Iowa State, but Miami coach Jim Larrañaga is a proud Providence alum. And as Cooley happily pointed out, another coach who does business at the UC — one Billy Donovan — is a Friar.

10. Impressive: Larrañaga, in Year 11 at Miami — which has never been as far as the Elite Eight — is a more-than-respectable 7-8 against Duke and 7-10 against North Carolina in the ACC. This is a terrific coach who relishes shots at the big boppers. Anybody else remember his George Mason squad going all the way to the Final Four in 2006?

11. Holy turnaround: Iowa State was 2-22 last season and 0-18 in the Big 12. A win Friday would be the 23rd for Transfer Portal U. — and plus-21 means a tie for the biggest improvement from one season to the next in NCAA history. To put it in perspective: Coleman-Lands was the second-leading scorer on that 2-22 team but is a bench guy at Kansas.

12. So stingy: Iowa State is as good as it gets on defense, leading all Sweet 16 teams in points allowed per game, turnovers forced and shooting percentages allowed from the three-point line and overall. It’s no wonder Wisconsin’s NBA lottery-bound Johnny Davis shot 4-for-16 in the last round. Iowa’s Keegan Murray, the Big Ten’s top scorer and another lottery guy, shot 4-for-17 in an earlier loss to the Cyclones.

13. Not bad at all: Wait, how did first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger get ISU into the tournament again? The Cyclones were just 7-11 in the Big 12, but they’re 15-0 against everybody else. That includes tournament teams Memphis, Creighton, Iowa, LSU and Wisconsin.


Iowa State’s George Conditt IV (left), a Corliss alum

AP Photos

14. They’re back home, too: Welcome home to Iowa State’s George Conditt IV (Corliss) and Kansas’ Joseph Yesufu (Bolingbrook). Conditt, a senior big man who’s a key guy off the bench, has been with the Cyclones his whole career. From the bottom of the barrel to this experience? Good for him.

15. 10 vs. 11: Miami-Iowa State is only the fourth such matchup since the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The 11s have won two out of three. Come on, you know you wanted to know.

16. Memories … : The last time ISU won a Sweet 16 game was March 23, 2000. A day later, ex-Cyclones coach Tim Floyd’s horrendous Bulls beat the Nuggets for their only victory in a 13-game stretch. The score at the UC that night was 70-68. We’re sure it was as riveting as it sounds.

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