KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas is huge, and playing 40 miles from Lawrence.
Jeff Jones doesn't care. His Virginia team, after all, was one of the four that finished tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the only league in the nation to send four teams to the Sweet 16.
"Kansas is a good team, but I think too much is being made about how good they are," Jones said yesterday. "I think we have a pretty good team also. Our style of play is similar to Kansas. Over the course of the game, we get stronger. . . . We've played in loud arenas before, and that doesn't guarantee Kansas will win here."
Jones is more concerned about the Jayhawks' depth up front, and he may have to go to his bench early to combat Kansas there. Norman Nolan, a freshman forward out of Dunbar High who normally plays eight minutes a game, is prepared for more.
"People forget that we've had to deal with some pretty good centers in the ACC," Nolan said.
Kansas and Virginia are mirror images in the backcourt. Both start a newcomer at shooting guard -- Cal transfer Jerod Haase for the Jayhawks, freshman Curtis Staples for the Cavaliers -- and a sophomore at the point. Had Kansas not landed Jacque Vaughn two years ago, coach Roy Williams was interested in the Cavaliers' Harold Deane.
Deane was forced into action by Cory Alexander's season-ending injury, and Vaughn appears tailor-made to run Kansas, which has three players 6 feet 10 or taller averaging close to double figures. The team has been dubbed Jacque and the Beanstalks, but at least one Jayhawk doesn't want to hear about their size advantage.
"Ask me about anything other than our height," said Kansas center Greg Ostertag, who's 7 feet 2.
Not everyone from Memphis will be rooting for the Tigers against Arkansas tonight. Arkansas point guard Corey Beck, forward/center Dwight Stewart and reserve forward Elmer Martin are all from Memphis.
"Memphis probably produces more players than any community of its size," said Arkansas' Nolan Richardson. "A lot of schools have always gotten players out of Memphis, and our rivalry probably wouldn't be as intense without those guys."
Memphis has four home-grown starters, and none has meant as much to its ascent to the Sweet 16 for the second time in Larry Finch's nine-year tenure as 6-11 freshman Lorenzen Wright.
The Great Midwest Conference Newcomer of the Year, Vaughn enjoys the limelight. In 12 nationally televised games, he has averaged 15.6 points and 8.9 rebounds and shot 62.7 percent from the field.