Kansas enters the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after an awesome 30-4 regular season campaign that included a 12th straight Big 12 title and Big 12 tournament championship.
This team really came together last summer, when it was chosen to represent the U.S. in the World University Games, which is normally comprised of some of the best college players from around the country.The Jayhawks (and SMU point guard Nic Moore) beat Germany for the championship. Rock Chalk, USA.
That experience likely wiped away an embarassing loss to little brother Wichita State in the second round of the NCAA’s last year, and set KU up for a terrific run in 2015-16. The ‘Hawks clearly have chemistry, and you can see it in the way they move the ball, (15.9 assists per game, 34th in the country), the way they rebound and play defense.
This club has it all–a reliable post scorer in senior Perry Ellis (16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg), an athletic swingman who can score in Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 ppg), a terrific point guard who can run the show in Frank Mason III (13.1 ppg, 4.7 apg), and a lock-down defender in Devonte Graham (11.7 ppg, 1.5 steals per).
Kansas has been in this position before, and they haven’t fared well. In 2010, the Jayhawks were the No. 1 overall seed, but were stunned in the second round by 9th-seeded Northern Iowa. Remember Ali Farokmanesh? In 2011, the top-seeded Jayhawks lost to upstart VCU in the Elite Eight.
Which teams can knock off Kansas?
Connecticut. If you believe in the ghosts of March Madness past, then you could take the Huskies to pull off another stunning upset, and maybe even make another run to the Final Four. UConn has stumbled its way through an up-and-down season, but had an ultimate UConn Moment in the AAC tournament when Jalen Adams kept their season alive with a three-quarters court heave. The Huskies went on to win the conference title.
Back in 2011, UConn went on a breathtaking run through the Big East tournament, winning five games in five days and then riding Kemba Walker to the national title. In 2014, the seventh-seeded Huskies made an even more improbable run, sneaking past St. Joe’s in the first round thanks to a lucky three-point play by Amida Brimah and then leaning on Shabazz Napier on an unprecedented run to the title.
This team doesn’t inspire the same kind of confidence, but it is perhaps as talented as any in the nation. UConn needs a go-to-guy, but guards Jalen Adams and Daniel Hamilton played better in the conference tournament. They’ve also got a big-time coach who knows how to motivate and guys who have been there before (like the seven-foot Brimah). We’re just saying. It could happen.
California. We may take a look back at this Cal team in a few years and think, ‘wow.’ All of those NBA guys were on the same team? That’s how talented this group is, though they’re very young. 6-7 freshman Jaylen Brown gets the most hype, and for good reason, as the highly-recruited forward averages 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Brown is a powerful swingman who already has an NBA body, and he can get to the rim with ease. His jump shot needs a little work, but he’s projected as a top-three pick on NBADraft.net. If this team gets hot, it could take out the Jayhawks.
Wichita State. We’re taking the Shockers to beat Arizona, and although we’ve got them losing to Miami (FL), if it gets to the Elite Eight, it might be tough to stop. This team did beat Kansas in the second round last year, and they’ve still got two of the greatest players in program history in guards Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. Those two probably still give the Jayhawks nightmares.
Maryland. The Terps were a preseason No. 1 in many publications and have talented guards in Melo Trimble and Rasheed Suliamon, and a good front line led by highly-touted freshman Diamond Stone. Talent won’t be the issue here, and if Maryland comes together at the right time, we could see an upset happening.
Miami (FL). The Hurricanes have a great inside-out combo in Angel Rodriguez and Tonye Jeriki, and another terrific scorer in Sheldon McClellan. We’ve got them in the Elite Eight, and given Kansas’ history of coming up short, maybe you should think about advancing them to the Final Four.
PREDICTION: We’re not sold on Villanova, and we don’t think Iowa or Arizona will take out this Kansas squad. To be honest, we don’t think any of the teams listed above will take out Kansas. Yes,the ‘Hawks have suffered some early-round meltdowns, and no, they don’t have a great history as a No. 1 seed. But none of that matters this year. If Kansas can win a gold medal for Team USA, they can handle the pressure of the NCAA Tournament. We’ve got the Jayhawks going all the way, and cutting the nets down in Houston.