The Kansas Jayhawks have won their 13th straight Big 12 championship, once again proving to be the king of the conference. The issue with the Jayhawks, as many know, has been their ability to be the finishers in the postseason. Among many fanbases Kansas is known as the best regular season team in the country year in and year out but one that is unable to make much noise come March. Could this be the year that this all gets put to rest?
Kansas is led by likely Player of the Year Frank Mason who is averaging just over 20 points per game, four rebounds per game and almost five assists per game. Mason has been the resounding leader for the Jayhawks and has been at forefront of their undefeated record against top-10 teams this season. Sounds a lot like Hall of Famer and North Carolina legend James Worthy, right?
Worthy didn’t win the National Player of the Year, but he did end up being the player of the tournament in the 1981-82 season and his team went on to win the National Title. He of course, like many in the past needed some help.
Mason has some help with a back-court mate that can do all the things he can in Devonte Graham, a glass-eater in Landen Lucas and a star freshman likely to win Freshman of the year in the Big 12 . . . Josh Jackson. North Carolina had one of those star freshmen too, that guy’s name was Michael Jordan and he is widely known as the greatest of all time. This is not to say Jackson is the next MJ, but the similarities for this Jayhawks team to the Tar Heels of 1981-82 sure makes you wonder.
The Tar Heels ended up beating Georgetown, led by freshman star center Patrick Ewing. This was legendary Dean Smith’s first National Title. Bill Self has only won one title and now it’s time to get his second with one of the most memorable teams you will ever see. Kansas still has some basketball left to be played before the tournament, but if they are destined to follow in North Carolina’s footsteps they will run through the tournament all the way to paydirt.
The Tar Heels only lost two games in their championship season. One of them came against ACC rival Virginia, who they later beat in the ACC Championship. They went through the tournament winning uncomfortably against James Madison, Alabama, Villanova, Houston and then they beat Georgetown by one point. Kansas has had its fair share of close games which ultimately leads us to believe they have a real good chance this year to emulate North Carolina’s championship run.
With the Big 12 tournament next on Kansas’ plate and a number one overall seed eyeing them in the face, Kansas still has a lot of work to do, but it isn’t anything they haven’t needed to do during the regular season. Bottom line is that when you play in a great conference like the Big 12, have a great coach like Bill Self, have a player that can take over in Frank Mason and have a team that has been in multiple close games and down to the wire situations, you are likely going to be more prepared than the majority of the field in the tournament.
Now, all we can hope for is that Frank Mason continues his ways of being able to be the leader, Josh Jackson turns into Michael Jordan (one can dream), Bill Self continues to make defensive adjustments like he has all regular season and, most importantly, Kansas plays their brand of basketball and doesn’t allow the other team to dictate the tempo.