Tipping off: Oregon, Kansas eye Final Four

Aaron Beard, AP
Duck Sports Authority


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- It's finally time to award the first spots in the Final Four.

And for the four teams chasing those tickets Saturday, it's another shot to break through an often frustrating roadblock in the regional finals.

Kansas lost in the Elite Eight last year. So did Oregon, which won the first NCAA Tournament in 1939 but hasn't pushed past the final eight since.

While those two teams meet in the Midwest Region final in Kansas City, Missouri, the West final in San Jose, California, features two teams - Gonzaga and Xavier - who have never won in this round.


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Kansas coach Bill Self called it ''the hardest game in the tournament.''

''There's so much emphasis on the road to the Final Four,'' Self said Friday. ''It's almost like the Final Four could be the equivalent of the national championship 30 years ago, with the type of intensity and the type of publicity it gets. ... If you get beat in this game, you come just that close to getting to the goal.''

Kansas (31-4) has had the most success of that quartet, though there's been plenty of frustration, too. The Jayhawks, the Midwest's No. 1 seed, won the national title under Self in 2008 and went to the title game in 2012. But along the way, there have been four Elite Eight losses under Self - three coming despite carrying a 1-seed.

Kansas is chasing its first Final Four since that 2012 run.

Oregon (32-5), the Midwest's 3-seed, is in the Elite Eight for the fourth time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Ducks have lost their last three, including to Kansas in 2002.

In the West, both 1-seed Gonzaga (35-1) and 11th-seeded Xavier (24-13) are each in the regional finals for a third time.

''All the games we feel the pressure to move on, to advance,'' Oregon coach Dana Altman said. ''This one, a little bit more because that Final Four is the goal of everybody.''

Here are things to know about the NCAA Tournament's second week:

HEADLINING NAMES: The Midwest final features a national player of the year candidate in Kansas' Frank Mason III and a preseason Associated Press All-American in Oregon's Dillon Brooks. Mason, a 5-foot-11 senior, is averaging 20.9 points on 49 percent shooting, while Brooks - a 6-7 junior - is averaging 16.3 points.

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