Jayhawks focused as Terrapins lurk ahead

LOUISVILLE, KY. – The No. 1 overall-seed Kansas Jayhawks finished their open practice nearly 30 minutes early Wednesday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. After the players attempted the traditional half court shots, the entire team came together to break down the huddle with two, final words — “national champions.”

Calm, cool and collected has been the theme with the Jayhawks this postseason as they have already navigated the Big 12 Tournament to cut down the nets in Kansas City before making the trip to Des Moines for swift first and second round NCAA Tournament wins over Austin Peay and UConn.

“We’re just more in-tune,” senior forward Jamari Traylor said Wednesday. “We know any day could be our last day playing … everything’s more magnified.”

Kansas has been bounced prior to reaching the second weekend in each of the last two years, resulting in seniors such as Traylor and forward Perry Ellis taking on larger leadership rolls during this year’s tournament.

With two games behind them, the Jayhawks have four games to go if they plan on achieving their ultimate goal of becoming “national champions.” Next up is the fifth-seeded Maryland Terrapins coached by former Jayhawk guard Mark Turgeon.

“We know any day could be our last day playing … everything’s more magnified.”

“Should be a great game,” Turgeon said following the Terrapins practice Wednesday afternoon. He noted that his players are “fired up because they have a lot of respect for Kansas and they’re the best team in the tournament,” while also mentioning that Kansas has their full attention.

The Terrapins will enter Thursday night’s contest 27-8 on the season after tying for third in the Big Ten conference with Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin. The Jayhawks could be in for a shooting struggle as the Terrapins outmatch them in the categories of blocks, scoring defense and three-point field goal defense.

While the defensive ability of Maryland poses potential problems, the Jayhawks seem more concerned with staying aggressive, playing physical and continuing to shoot an alarming 42.3 percent from three-point range. In fact, Wednesday afternoon’s “practice” was more of a shootaround, as the Kansas players stretched the floor and drilled baskets for more than 20 minutes.

“We’ve just got to play physical, and that’s what’s got us here, and we’ve got to continue to do that,” Traylor said.

You can listen to live play-by-play coverage of Kansas and Maryland in the NCAA Tournament on 90.7 FM in Lawrence, Topeka and parts of Kansas City. Follow the team on Twitter, @KJHKsports, and online for all-day coverage of the team in Louisville.