by Joel Thorman
Intro: Once again Bill Self’s Jayhawks looked poised to snag a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and with that came a giant target on the back of the jersey. Expectations can a blessing and a curse. It’s a testament to what this team has accomplished, but it also provides plenty of ammo for critics if they fall short, and the reality is that only one team can come away with the title of champion.
For their part the Jayhawks are without a doubt among the elite in college basketball and after coming up short a season ago the Morris twins are focused on getting Kansas back to the Final Four with the end goal of a National Title.
Considering the Jayhawks have one of the top offenses in the country and they appear to be peaking defensively, this could easily be a team that makes that run and gives the Jayhawk faithful another coveted shot at a title. It boils down to focus, consistency, and effort and as is always the case in March, a little bit of luck. Kansas has the talent and the tools, now it just needs to come together.
Record: 32-2, 17-2
RPI: No. 1
Key wins: Saturday Nov 27th vs. Arizona: Kansas started out with what may have been their most impressive eight minutes of basketball all year long before settling into a lull, allowing Arizona to creep back in. Potential top pick in the upcoming draft Derek Williams served a bit of a wakeup call to the Kansas bigs with a nice game, but Kansas was able to pull out an eight-point win against the eventual Pac-10 champs.
Saturday January 29th vs. Kansas State: The Jayhawks dominated a sinking Wildcat team start to finish. Since that time Kansas State has turned a corner for the positive making the 20-plus-point manhandling by Kansas in this one look fairly impressive.
Wednesday March 2nd vs. Texas A&M: A game that looked like a typical NCAA tournament struggle, and the Jayhawks slowly pulled away. It was a game where Kansas wasn’t shooting their best; the game turned physical, and the Jayhawks found a way to win.
Saturday March 5th vs. Missouri: Missouri was 17-0 at home headed into this one, and the Jayhawks were able to go into Columbia and get a win. Despite a large number of turnovers the Kansas defense carried the load and the Jayhawks clinched the outright Big 12 title.
Saturday January 22nd vs. Texas: The morning after the death of Thomas Robinson’s mother the Jayhawks just ran out of gas in the second half and struggled as badly as they have all year on the offensive end. Not a bad loss in the least.
Monday February 14th vs. Kansas State: The Wildcats won in convincing fashion avenging an earlier loss and have since been labeled the hottest team in college basketball. Again, hardly a bad loss for Kansas.
Player(s) to watch: For Kansas it goes without saying that the Morris twins drive the ship and any time the twin forwards are playing at their best the Jayhawks are hard to stop. But if you look beyond that there is a player emerging as a leader especially on the defensive end in Elijah Johnson. Bill Self always preaches defense, and at times this has looked like one of his teams that has a long way to go in that regard. Since Johnson stepped into a more prominent role he has been able to elevate the on ball defense for the Jayhawks and that intensity seems to be rubbing off on others. It’s the type of play that can take this Kansas team, which is great offensively, to great all around.
For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Missouri Tigers, please visit Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City.