Vikings excited just to make field of 64

Big Sky conference Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez during practice for the NCAA Midwest Regional basketball tournament in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday. <i>Associated Press</i>

OMAHA, Neb. - These Kansas seniors have been through a lot. Not one, but two stunning losses in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Then, the equally bitter disappointment of coming up one win short of the Final Four.

There's only one way to go out.

A national championship.

The top-seeded Jayhawks (31-3) open play in the Midwest Regional against Portland State, an NCAA neophyte that is led by a 5-foot-6 guard and shouldn't pose much of a threat to a powerful, seasoned team such as Kansas.

No 16th-seeded team has ever won a tournament game. Then again, the Jayhawks haven't forgotten how No. 14 Bucknell stunned them in 2005. Or how Bradley, seeded 13th the following year, delivered another first-round knockout to the Jayhawks.

"It's always going to stick in the back of your mind," said senior forward Darnell Jackson, who got a firsthand look at both upsets. "You're supposed to win those games."

For the six seniors, this is the final chance to leave a mark everyone at Kansas will remember.

Of course, they'll have to get by Portland State (23-9) to play a second game.

The Vikings earned their first trip to the NCAAs by winning the Big Sky Conference tournament, but it figures to be a rather brief trip. Kansas is a 22 1/2-point favorite.

"It's exciting for us to be here," Portland State coach Ken Bone said. "(The players) worked hard for a couple of years, and now it's finally paid off to where they're having a good time with this. And I hope they enjoy it, because tomorrow morning might not be quite as fun."

Diminutive Jeremiah Dominguez led the Vikings in scoring and assists, even though he's nearly a half-foot shorter than anyone on Kansas' roster. He'll have to overcome his disadvantage in size, strength and athleticism for his team to have any shot at the greatest upset in NCAA history.


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