Some bracketologists had nice scenarios laid out for Kansas. While KU isn’t facing murderer’s row, there were definitely some unpleasant surprises on Selection Sunday. We’ll have full bracket breakdowns as the week goes on, but for now we’ll just take a preliminary look at KU’s half of the Midwest bracket, where the Jayhawks predictably ended up with the top seed. They’ll face the winner of the play-in game between NC Central, a team who leads the nation in 3 point defense (i.e. defensive luck) and free throw defense (literally not a thing), and UC-Davis, one of the worst offenses in the country. I’m not sweating KU’s first game.
On the 8 and 9 lines, both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm correctly picked Miami (FL) as KU’s 8, but what no one had going into the afternoon was Michigan State as the 9. While it’s true that this isn’t a classic Michigan State team, it’s still stocked with talent, still has a Hall of Fame coach, still has a chance to make some noise in March. It was a relief to some of RCT’s top conspiracy theorists (yours truly included) NOT to see Wichita State slated to play KU in round two with a geographical advantage, but Michigan State is a potent team as well, though it should be noted they went 6-9 vs teams in the field of 68 this year. So Michigan State probably feels like more of a slight than it is.
Miami’s resume is both “meh” and “wow” at the same time. For the most part, the 21-11 Hurricanes beat teams worse than them and lost to teams better than them, with the worst lost of the season being a road game against bubble team Syracuse. However, three games stand out: home wins over North Carolina and Duke, with a road win over Virginia. Michigan State may be the least of KU’s concerns, because Miami has shown the ability to beat very good teams. However, they don’t shoot well, and turn it over a lot while forcing very few. They’re ranked just 68th offensively by KenPom, but 20th defensively.
If KU makes it out of the first weekend, a likely matchup with the one team just about every Kansas fan said they didn’t want to see likely looms. Introducing Purdue, a team with three quality big men who can bang down low or move all the way out to the perimeter if needed. They’re a nightmare matchup for Iowa State, the 5 seed, but also for KU’s 4-out-1-in look this year. The Jayhawks just don’t have that many big bodies, so Purdue could present a big problem. On the other hand, if both ISU and KU escape the first weekend, it could be fun to remind Iowa State just how much that Big 12 Tournament trophy actually means in the grand scheme of things.
Stayed tuned to RCT this week for more detailed tournament coverage as the Big Dance approaches.