While it was impossible to outdo this year's first game between Kansas and Oklahoma, Saturday's game down in Norman made for a fine encore. The magnitude of, and quality of play in, the contest was enough to make both 'Hawk and Sooner fans ready for March Madness.
For Kansas, their pursuit of a 12th straight conference title is very much alive and well after the victory. More important though, Kansas fans are settling into that late February comfort level that comes with a team having already done enough to punch their ticket to a 27th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. With no more than nine games left to close out the regular season and Big 12 Conference Tournament, Kansas fans now turn their thoughts to potential seeding, tournament destinations, and potential match ups for the Jayhawks.
On Thursday - even before KU's win over the Sooners - ESPN's Joe Lunardi had moved the Jayhawks back up to the one line in his Bracketology. In that scenario, Lunardi has Kansas as the last #1 seed, in the West Bracket. According to Lunardi, this puts Kansas in the Des Moines opening weekend pod facing Montana in their first game and potentially LSU or Indiana in the second. Kansas fans can't like the look of that LSU team in Lunardi's layout. The Tigers have been up and down this season, but they are sick with NBA talent, among them the potential number one pick in this year's NBA Draft in Ben Simmons. Also on Lunardi's board, with Kansas as the one in the West and Oklahoma the one in the South, he's got it set up for a potential meeting between the conference rivals in the Final Four. It would be nice if both teams make it that far, but nicer if they were on opposite sides of the field. Lunardi will, most likely, make some big changes come Monday given Kansas' big win and Iowa's loss to the Hoosiers.
Whoever - out of Kansas and Oklahoma - wins the Big 12, given the conference's legit strength this season, should get a 1-seed. West Virginia, probably a little less likely, however if they run the Big 12 gauntlet to steal the crown they deserve love from the selection committee whether they get it or not.
Even if Kansas doesn't win the Big 12 there's still a chance they get a one even with five or six losses. A 2-seed is still a possibility, but it's not unrealistic to suggest the Jayhawks won't fall lower than that even if they finish the season with seven or eight losses. Dropping that many games is hard to see happening now though. The 'Hawks play has stabilized significantly since their second half collapse in Ames.
Whatever the case, it's another tournament in which Kansas enters as a 4-seed or higher. An unreal, tops in the nation streak they've been on since Roy Williams last took the Jayhawks, as an eight seed, into the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
Looking at the Jayhawks as a potential 1-Seed
As of right now, given Kansas' current win streak, including two wins over top 10 teams, and Iowa's losing two of their last five, the Jayhawks have, most likely, leap frogged the Hawkeyes for the 1-seed in the Midwest Bracket. This would make it so Kansas would still play in the Des Moines opening weekend pod, but should they progress from there, the Jayhawks would go to the Chicago regional as opposed to the Anaheim, California regional they would go to as the one in the West.
It's hard to see, given the amount of time Oklahoma has spent at the top of the rankings this season, and the quality of their overall play, that the Sooners will drop off the one line outside of a perplexing collapse. If they did, somehow, fall to the two line, they will still be playing in the Oklahoma City opening weekend pod. If this is the case, and Kansas continues to play at a 1-seed level, the Jayhawks could conceivably wind up playing the opening weekend in Oklahoma City as well. It's hard to picture things playing out this way though. And if it did, Kansas would most likely still be penciled in as the one in the Midwest, feeding into the Chicago regional regardless of whether they start in Des Moines or OKC.
Looking at the Jayhawks as a Potential 2-seed
If Kansas' play dips, compelling the selection committee to drop them to a 2-seed, then their opening weekend destination will either be St. Louis or Oklahoma City. If Kansas comes in as a two, it will most likely be as the top two, as they were in 2012. Which means Kansas will probably stay put in the Midwest Bracket that, again, feeds into the Chicago regional.
A Look at Kansas' Historical Performances as a 1-Seed (Since NCAA Tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985)
As a 1-seed Kansas has made some epic marches through the tournament, and they've also flamed out in some of the biggest disappointments in school history.
Since 1985 Kansas has been a 1-seed 11 times - 1986, 1992, 1995, 1997-98, 2002, 2007-08, 2010-11, & 2013.
Result: Final Four - vs. 1-seed Duke - Duke 71, Kansas 67
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 9-seed UTEP - UTEP 66, Kansas 60
Result: Sweet Sixteen - vs. 4-seed Virginia - Virginia 67, Kansas 58
Result: Sweet Sixteen - vs. 4-seed Arizona - Arizona 85, Kansas 82
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 8-seed Rhode Island - Rhode Island 80, Kansas 75
Result: Final Four - vs. 1-seed Maryland - Maryland 97, Kansas 88
Result: Elite Eight - vs. 2-seed UCLA - UCLA 68, Kansas 55
Result: National Champions - vs. 1-seed Memphis - Kansas 75, Memphis 68 in OT
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 9-seed Northern Iowa - No. Iowa 69, Kansas 67
Result: Elite Eight - vs. 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth - VCU 71, Kansas 61
Result: Sweet Sixteen - vs. 4-seed Michigan - Michigan 87, Kansas 85 in OT
Best run as a 1-seed: '08 - National Championship
Worst run as a 1-seed: '92,'98, & '10 - Round of 32
Average tournament run as a 1-seed: 2.6 wins, or a little better than the Sweet Sixteen appearance.
A Look at Kansas' Historical Performances as a 2-Seed (Since NCAA Tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985)
Though the sample size is smaller, there has been no shortage of heart pounding, deep tournament runs for Kansas as a 2-seed.
Since 1985 Kansas has been a 2-seed seven times - 1990, 1993, 1996, 2003, 2012, 2014-15.
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 7-seed UCLA - UCLA 71, Kansas 70
Result: Final Four - vs. 1-seed North Carolina - UNC 78, Kansas 68
Result: Elite Eight - vs. 4-seed Syracuse - Syracuse 60, Kansas 57
Result: National Title Game - vs. 3-seed Syracuse - Syracuse 81, Kansas 78
Result: National Title Game - vs. 1-seed Kentucky - Kentucky 67, Kansas 59
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 10-seed Stanford - Stanford 60, Kansas 57
Result: Round of 32 - vs. 7-seed Wichita State - WSU 78, Kansas 65
Best run as a 2-seed: '03 & '12 - National Championship Game
Worst run as a 2-seed: '90,'14, & '15 - Round of 32
Average tournament run as a 2-seed: 2.85 wins, or pretty close to an Elite Eight run every time they are a two.