Heading into the NCAA Tournament, we’re taking a look at the No. 1 seeds. Kansas lost in their first game of the Big 12 Tournament, but that didn’t stop the committee from naming the Jayhawks as one of the top seeds. Here’s a closer look at No. 1 seed Kansas as it prepares for the tournament.
Coach: Bill Self | Current record: 28-4 | NCAA Tournament record: 40-17
Best finish: National champion (3x) | Last year’s finish: Lost to Villanova in Elite Eight
Starting lineup: G Frank Mason, G Devonte’ Graham, F Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, F Josh Jackson, F Landen Lucas | (Top reserve: G Lagerald Vick)
Leading scorer: Mason (20.8) | Leading rebounder: Lucas (8.4)
National championships: 1952, 1988, 2008 | Last Final Four: 2012
Why Kansas might win it all: The Jayhawks check every box. They have a future Hall of Fame coach in Bill Self, a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate in Frank Mason, a projected lottery pick in Josh Jackson -- plus great guard play in general, experience, toughness, a winning pedigree ... everything. They’re good offensively, good enough defensively, and Mason is equipped to take over games in big spots and hit big shots. If KU needs him to carry the team, he can.
Why Kansas might not win it all: Kansas really only has two bigs -- Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg. So a bracket that presents the Jayhawks with a matchup against a team that could exploit that reality might be a nightmare. Remember, Udoka Azubuike was the primary big until he suffered a season-ending injury in December. That was a big blow. Kansas has mostly overcome it, sure, but the Jayhawks are still not what they’d otherwise be in the frontcourt. And that might be the thing that keeps them from cutting the nets on the first Monday in April.
Player to watch: Mason has been sensational all season. The senior point guard is averaging a Big 12-best 20.8 points and a team-high 5.1 assists. He’s gone for 30 points three different times and scored at least 23 in each of KU’s past three games. As previously mentioned, he’s a ball-dominant four-year player with swagger and ability. He wants to make the play when a play needs to be made. He wants to take the shot when a shot needs to be taken. His Kansas jersey should be retired someday.
One guy soaring: Jackson was suspended for KU’s Big 12 Tournament opener because of another off-the-court incident with a car. That’s disappointing. But before that he was consistently performing at a high level. The likely one-and-doner had scored in double-figures in 13 consecutive games -- four of which resulted in double-doubles. There are moments when he looks like the Jayhawks’ MVP. He’s not. It’s Mason. But Jackson absolutely looks that way sometimes.
Notable stat: Kansas has been a No. 1 seed six times under Self -- but the Jayhawks have only made the Final Four once in those years. That’s the stat anti-Kansas people use against Kansas on the regular. Granted, it probably doesn’t mean what the anti-Kansas people try to pretend it means. But it’s definitely a true stat that highlights the fact that the Jayhawks don’t usually make the Final Four even when their seed suggests they should make the Final Four.
Final thought: The idea that Kansas earned a No. 1 seed by winning the Big 12 for the 13th straight time, by four full games, is incredible -- especially considering the Jayhawks lost a starter (Azubuike ) after just 11 games. Kudos to Self and his staff. But unless a trip to the Final Four comes next, it’ll just create more ammo for those who believe the Jayhawks are merely a great “regular season” team.
Kansas would be wise to avoid that.
The Jayhawks need to win at least four games to quiet skeptics.
Six wins would shut them up completely.