The Kansas Jayhawks are the No. 1 team heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Will they leave the same way?
In what could be renamed the “NCAA Parity Tournament,” KU is one of about 15 teams that could legitimately win the national title.
There’s no excuses for KU this year. The last two years of relying on “one-and-done” players has been a built-in lament, but this is a Jayhawk team loaded with juniors and seniors.
The Jayhawks should dispatch with Austin Peay — but don’t be surprised if it’s a close game for a half given KU’s recent penchant for first-round struggles — but I think the second game with UConn, which should take care of Colorado, is going to be a barnburner.
UConn is riding a wave of emotion and it wasn’t that long ago the Huskies came into the tournament with nobody paying attention to them and they wound up cutting down the nets.
Kansas certainly has all the ingredients to make a deep run, which I think it will as I have it losing to Michigan State in the championship game.
DeVonte’ Graham’s emergence has made the Jayhawks so much more dangerous as the backcourt load no longer falls solely on Frank Mason. The two-point-guard setup has worked well and Graham’s consistent 3-point shooting has added an element that was missing last year.
Perry Ellis is an automatic 15-and-7 guy. Landen Lucas has come on strong as a rebounder and defender.
Then you have Wayne Selden.
Every year it seems the Jayhawks have a player who simply causes their fans overdue consternation. There was Naadir Tharpe, Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor, to name a few.
Selden had an amazing summer in Korea, helping the Jayhawks to the World Championship Games title. He continued his rarefied level at the start of the year, but then hit the skids.
Selden is a player who seems to suffer from confidence issues. When he’s good, he’s very good. When he’s not, he wears his frustrations on his sleeve. People look at his NBA body and see the explosiveness and wonder why can’t he put up 15 to 20 points every night out and take over games. There’s been too many 2 of 9s and 3 of 11s. He’s simply too skilled to have so many of those types of games.
Selden is the X-factor. I have no doubt KU can win it all with a confident Selden. He showed signs in the Big 12 Tourney of maybe regaining his confidence, but for him it’s so fragile.
KU, 1 through 10, has more talent than any team in the country. It has a lot of bench players who would be stars for other teams.
This is the Jayhawks’ time. There’s no question their experience and the schedule they have played has prepared them well. Now it’s just a matter of not going out and tripping up against a lesser-talented team.