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updated: 3/24/2011 10:45 PM

Top seed Kansas in a good spot

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Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- So far in this NCAA Tournament, the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks are riding an easy-looking path toward the Final Four.

Yet again.

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The Jayhawks returned to Alamodome on Thursday for the first time since winning their last national championship here in 2008. Most recall that overtime win over fellow top seed Memphis after first beating North Carolina to open the Final Four.

Easier to forget is how the Jayhawks got there: Beating seeds that were 16, 8, and then a 12 and 10.

Sound familiar to this run?

Kansas has beaten as 16 seed (Boston), a 9 (Illinois) and will face a No. 12 seed in the Richmond Spiders on Friday. Then it's a 10 or 11 seed at worst.

"When you're in the business long enough you're going to have things like that crop up," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But I haven't thought about the (similarities) at all."

If the Jayhawks (34-2) return to the Final Four this year, they'll join Michigan State in 2001 and North Carolina in 1991 as the only schools to get that far without having to beat a seed higher than 9. Awaiting Kansas if it beats Richmond will be either 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth or 10th-seeded Florida State.

Only five teams have reached the Final Four by feasting on teams seeded eighth or lower, according to STATS LLC. One of those schools: the 2008 Jayhawks, which beat 12th-seeded Villanova in the round of 16 that year.

Richmond (29-7) is hoping to fare better.

The Spiders have only one other round of 16 appearance. That was in 1988, before most players on their roster were even born. Richmond did stun Kansas in its only other meeting, breaking the Jayhawks' streak of 52 wins against unranked opponents at Allen Fieldhouse, but that was back in 2004.

"Their experiences are fairly limited," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "So to be able to play Kansas in the Sweet 16 in the Alamodome is probably big stuff for them, and for all of us."

Florida St. vs. VCU

Florida State has all the pieces to be a second-weekend darling in the NCAA Tournament: a double-digit seed, a star player working his way back from foot surgery last month and a 26-year-old big man who served three tours of duty in the Middle East for the Air Force.

Yet the Seminoles aren't even the most compelling team in their Southwest regional semifinal.

That would be Virginia Commonwealth, a team whose tournament credentials were so shaky that the coach didn't hold a selection-watching party for fear they wouldn't be invited.

The Rams got in through the back door, one of two new spots in a "First Four" game. Critics said they didn't belong, but they proved otherwise by blowing past Southern Cal, then trashing traditional powers Georgetown and Purdue by 18 points each.

Now VCU is deeper in the NCAAs than ever before and is the only team in the tournament that can boast about winning three games last week.

There's far less criticism this week, but coach Shaka Smart is on the lookout because he knows it brings out the best in his players.

"I saw somebody had us rated 16th out of the 16 teams still left," Smart said, smiling. "I think there's still some people that are doubting, you know, how well we can do down here in San Antonio. There's some challenges that we have to battle through. But our guys know what brought us success last week. It's mostly a matter of maintaining that mind-set going into this game."

He won't get any help from the Seminoles.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton did all he could Thursday to pump up his foe, calling them "definitely one of those ACC-type teams." Asked about being favored in this game as a No. 10 seed, Hamilton said, "We are?"

"We've got to take VCU just as seriously as we would Kansas or Duke or any other team," guard Michael Snaer said. "They made it this far."

The winner of this matchup between 10 and 11 seeds will advance to play Sunday against either top-seeded Kansas or yet another what-are-they-doing-here? team, 12th-seeded Richmond, in a game to determine a spot in the Final Four.

Despite the charm of this game, it's the late game Friday night, the last of the round, in part because it might not make for scintillating TV.

Both clubs thrive on defense. First team to 70 probably will win.

The Seminoles (23-10) are about to wrap up their second straight season of leading the nation in field goal defense, a back-to-back feat not done since Georgetown did in 1990 and '91. Florida State has dropped last season's national-best .377 down to .360. In the NCAA tournament, FSU limited seventh-seeded Texas A&M and second-seeded Notre Dame to .310.

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