This has been an up and down season. We’ve been really high on this team and we’ve felt the lows. We have hinted at what could be and we’ve called this one of Bill Self’s worst teams. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment and lay out why KU could win it all and why the won’t.
Why They Will
Repeat. We have avoided using that word around here all season. Saying it out loud almost feels like a jinx. But if we are going to say it, now is the time. This squad has the best chance to repeat as national champions more than any other defending champion in recent memory. Most teams have a down year after winning the title. We all remember Kentucky losing in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris in 2013. UConn won the title in 2014 and then collapsed in spectacular fashion having seasons vacated. Repeating is hard. You aren’t supposed to do it.
Kansas didn’t get that message. Sure they lost 75% of the scoring from their national championship squad. Yeah the guy playing the 5 is only 6’7”. They responded by racking up the most quad one wins in history. They won the toughest conference in America outright. They took the most difficult strength of schedule in the nation and turned it into a #1 seed.
Look at this team. Jalen Wilson won Big 12 Player of the Year. Dajuan Harris won Big 12 Defender of the Year. Gradey Dick is the best freshman shooter Bill Self has ever had. When this team is on, they are unbeatable.
Kansas has a tough road ahead of them. But they had an even tougher road behind them. They are battle tested and proven. They went to the wire in Manhattan. They went into an extremely hostile Columbia and destroyed the Tigers. With their backs against the wall after a 3 game losing streak, they went into Lexington and shut the crowd down. Playing in Las Vegas rather than Kansas City isn’t going to be a problem for this Jayhawk squad.
No other #1 seed has been tested the way Kansas has. No one has fought and clawed their way to the #1 seed. No one will have a tougher road to the Final Four. Kansas has proved themselves all season long and the postseason will be no different. Look for Kansas to cut down the nets in 3 weeks in Houston.
Why They Won’t
This Kansas team has issues. We’ve seen them all season long. They were exposed during their 3 game losing streak earlier in the year. They’ve lost 7 games this year and they looked like absolute crap in most of those losses. This is a team that got manhandled by Texas twice in a week. They play 6’7” guy at the 5. They could not have received a less favorable draw. The teams in front of them seem to have been created in a lab for the specific purpose of beating Kansas.
Take all of that together and put them into the absolute toughest region in the tournament and that is a recipe for an early exit.
Kevin McCullar Jr left the floor during the Big 12 Tournament. His absence was felt in the 20 point beat-down the Jayhawk received in the championship game. While reports say Kevin will return for the tournament, we don’t know how healthy he is. We saw first hand how vital his defense and energy is to this team. Without the 6’6” guard, Kansas will have an extremely tough road ahead of them.
While we are all thankful to see Bill Self released from the hospital, we have to wonder how much of a factor receiving 2 stents and an extended hospital stay will be on the 60 year old head coach. Coach Self is the best in the business and this will be one of his most challenging tournaments. Kansas needs him if they want to repeat as national champions.
Bottom line is there are too many things going against Kansas to make me confident of a national championship. They will be lucky to even reach the sweet sixteen in the west region. Kansas fans shouldn’t even bother booking hotels for Houston this year. Look for an early exit for the guys in crimson and blue this tournament.