2013 NCAA tournament No. 1 seed: Kansas Jayhawks

by | Eye on College Basketball
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Coach: Bill Self | NCAA tournament record: 28-12

Best finish: National champion in 2008

Assistants: Joe Dooley, Norm Roberts, Kurtis Townsend

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Starting lineup
G: Elijah Johnson
G: Travis Releford
G: Ben McLemore
F: Kevin Young
C: Jeff Withey

Top reserve: Guard Naadir Tharpe

Leading scorer: Ben McLemore (16.7 ppg)

Leading rebounder: Jeff Withey (8.4 rpg)

National titles: 1952, 1988, 2008 | Last Final Four: 2012

Why Kansas might win it all: The Jayhawks are one of the nation's best defensive teams, with excellent individual defenders on the perimeter and arguably the best shot-blocker in the country in Jeff Withey. They also convert forced shots and turnovers into easy transition baskets, beginning runs that snowball into big leads. Offensively, Kansas has plenty of guys who are confident and can make shots. Ben McLemore is a future top-five NBA Draft pick, while Withey has gotten better and better. They can score inside and out, and are getting stellar play down the stretch from freshman Perry Ellis.

Why it might not win it all: Bill Self has made several comments throughout the season about the inconsistency of the Jayhawks' point-guard play, with Elijah Johnson going through extended slumps and Naadir Tharpe not showing he can handle the staring job. Johnson is capable of monster games -- 39 points earlier this season, three games of at least 10 assists -- but he turns it over too much and can lose his confidence in a hurry. Moreover, they sometimes get stagnant offensively in close games down the stretch. McLemore hasn't showed he wants to take on the role of go-to guy on a regular basis.

Player to watch -- Ben McLemore: The freshman swingman is one of the most talented players in the country, and he is well on his way to being a lottery pick. He is a knockdown shooter, capable of getting hot in a hurry if he is able to step into his shot. However, teams that have made McLemore put the ball on the floor and create his own look have forced him into tough nights. He needs to be a stud if Kansas is to win it all.

One guy soaring -- Perry Ellis: The freshman forward wasn't much more than a role player during the first few months, scoring in double figures five times during the regular season. In the conference tournament, though, Ellis has provided a major boost in the frontcourt. He went for 23 points and six rebounds against Iowa State in the semifinals, and followed up with an efficient 12 points and six rebounds in the title game.

One guy slumping -- Travis Releford: He has proven over the course of his career that he is capable of taking and making clutch shots, but he isn't playing his best ball down the stretch. After reaching double figures 23 times during the regular season, Releford hasn't hit that number in his past four games. During that stretch, the senior guard has hit 9 of 26 shots and averaged only 5.8 points.

Notable stat: Kansas has the best field-goal percentage defense in the country -- and much of it comes from its shot-blocking prowess on the interior. The Jayhawks allow teams to shoot only 38.9 percent inside the arc, and only 35.9 percent overall -- both rank first in the country. Not surprisingly, led by Withey's 4.0 blocks per game, Kansas is No. 3 in the country in rejections.

Final thought: Despite Kansas' losing streak in early February, the Jayhawks have been one of the more consistently impressive teams this season. When the Jayhawks' defense is dictating the game and enabling them to get easy transition opportunities, they are very difficult to beat. However, Self is going to need to get consistent point guard play in order to win six games. Johnson and Tharpe are talented enough to get the job done, but they will need to be solid and not make too many mistakes. That will ultimately decide the Jayhawks' fate.

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