The Kansas Jayhawks Basketball team heads into the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament with a chance to improve its NCAA Tournament seeding. Even if Kansas wins conference tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, they will not get a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. They have not been a No. 3 seed (or worse) since 2009, which means that this tournament will have a different feel for Kansas fans.
In recent years, Kansas fans have grown accustomed to writing their team’s name in the National Championship box when filling out their brackets. Kansas has not won a national title since 2008, but the team has made several deep runs in the Tournament in the Bill Self era. The Jayhawks have been one of the favorites to win the title almost every year since 2010.
This year, Kansas fans should not pick their team to make a run to the Final Four. Throughout the season, Kansas lost three key players: center Udoka Azubuike (season-ending wrist injury), big man Silvio De Sousa (NCAA suspension), and guard Lagerald Vick (left the team for personal reasons). As CBS’s Seth Davis said a few weeks ago at halftime of KU’s win over Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks do not have an identity. Last year, the Jayhawks had senior leadership and four solid three-point shooters on the floor for most of the game. This year, KU does not have any one skill that it can hang its hat on.
Here are three teams KU fans should pick to make a deep NCAA Tournament run:
I know. Not many Kansas fans want Roy Williams to win another national title, but it could happen.
The Tar Heels like to push the pace and can outscore anyone. They have six players who average between eight and 17 points per game. Freshman guard Coby White has had a tremendous freshman season. He is averaging over 16 points per game and has made 36 percent of his three-point attempts. Senior forward Luke Maye will have his chance to lead the team to a national title. He is averaging a double-double and has started all 33 games for UNC this season.
Williams’s teams are usually a good bet to make a run to the Final Four when they have a lot of talent. This year’s Tar Heels team certainly has a lot of talent, and they are playing good basketball right now. If the Tar Heels (who operate at the fifth-fastest pace in the country and are third in the nation in scoring) get hot from three-point range, they will be unstoppable.
The Bulldogs are the most likable big-time college basketball program. They play a great brand of basketball, and they have a very well-rounded team.
The only issue with picking Mark Few’s bunch to win it all is that they played their worst game of the season in a 60-47 loss to St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Championship Game. The Zags dominated their WCC schedule in the regular season, and their entire season’s body of work has been impressive. Their only other losses were in non-conference games against top-ten teams (Tennessee and North Carolina). Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring at 88.8 points per game and has outscored its opponents by an average of 23.7 points per game.
The Zags are led by junior big man Rui Hachimura, who has scored 20 points per game while shooting an efficient 61 percent from the field. Guards Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins have combined for 311 assists and 111 turnovers. The X-factor for Gonzaga is big man Killian Tillie. Tillie has battled through injuries for most of the season, but he will be available in the NCAA Tournament. If he can play up to his capabilities, then Gonzaga will be tough to beat in the Big Dance.
The Red Raiders lost to last-place West Virginia in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament. However, before that, Texas Tech rattled off nine straight wins against Big 12 opponents, including a 91-62 thrashing of Kansas on February 23.
The Red Raiders can play some defense. They rank first in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy.
Head coach Chris Beard, who may be named Associated Press Head Coach of the Year, has done a magnificent job with his team. The Red Raiders lost several key pieces of their team after making a run to the Elite Eight last year, but they managed to be even better this season. Sophomore guard Jarrett Culver is a legitimate NBA prospect, while sophomore point guard Davide Moretti is one of the most improved players in the country. The duo of Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase provide Texas Tech with defense, rebounding, and hustle.
Texas Tech may not be one of the main Final Four contenders, and they lost their last game against a last-place team. However, that should not prevent KU fans from picking the Red Raiders to make another run to the Elite Eight when they fill out their brackets on Sunday night.