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Here is Why Kansas WILL Win the National Championship
By Jared Sleppy
Copyright: MSC Sports

There hasn’t been a team that has won the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007 under Billy Donovan. Also, no one has played in back-to-back national championship games since 2010 and 2011 when the Butler Bulldogs came up short in both of those contests.

The Kansas Jayhawks (27-7, 13-5) has a good chance to do something very special this year, but is it realistic?

Well, considering they won the Big 12 this season in what could arguably be the most difficult conference slate in college basketball history and are the number three overall seed (even though they should have been number two), and winning against 17 Quad 1 opponents, which is the most in history since the metric was created, their odds are somewhat favorable.

Their 33rd consecutive NCAA Tournament journey (the most in NCAA history) starts on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. on TBS with a meeting against the #16 seed Howard University Bison (22-12, 11-3), an HBCU school from the MEAC conference in the West Region in Des Moines.

Howard is making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992. They have never won a tournament game and it’s unlikely that trend will change.

Since 2003, only once has KU won by fewer than 15 points against a #16 seed and that was in 2013 against a Western Kentucky team that should not have been a 16. They defeated the Hilltoppers by only seven points and KU would lose to Michigan in the Sweet 16 in overtime.

Prediction: Kansas 89, Howard 63

I don’t expect this to be close. Howard might stick around for the first 10-15 minutes of game action, but that’s something KU has been doing all year long no matter how poor the competition might be. This is a Jayhawks team that is battle-tested and isn’t about to be the second #1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose in the Round of 64.

So that begs the question, how far will they go? Well, looking at their path, it looks like it will be a tough climb with some challenges lying in wait.

Their second-round matchup will be between either #8 seed Arkansas or #9 seed Illinois. The Fighting Illini are practically playing in their backyard, so I think that will be the difference-maker in that matchup.

That would give us a matchup of Bill Self versus his former team. Fortunately, Des Moines isn’t too bad of a trip for Kansas fans, so the stadium should be split 60-40 in favor of the Illini.

On the court, Illinois’ Terrance Shannon Jr. will be a guy to watch out for. He was selected 1st Team All-Big Ten by the coaches after averaging 17.1 points per game and shooting 44% from the field.

KU has a chance to expose their defense which has been struggling as of late after giving up 79 points to Penn State in their quarterfinal loss in the Big Ten Tournament and gave up 87 points to a floundering Michigan team just before that.

It might be a close game for the most part, but the Jayhawks will pull away to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive time.

Their Sweet 16 matchup could be any one of #5 seed Saint Mary’s, #12 seed Virginia Commonwealth, #4 seed Connecticut or #13 seed Iona, all of which would be tough games.

UConn is the most likely of these four teams to advance, according to most experts and metrics, but all of that is usually thrown out the window because, you know, this is March Madness we are talking about.

On the bottom half of the bracket awaits some very good teams as well, should Kansas advance to the Elite 8.

UCLA is the #2 seed and Gonzaga is the #3 seed. TCU is also down there as the #6 seed with a possible path for a Big 12 matchup in the Elite 8.

West Region Champion: Kansas

It would be uber-impressive if KU could return to the Final Four and get to Houston after all the talent, they lost a year ago. Fortunately for them, great recruiting and additions from the transfer portal make that not only possible, but it should also be an expectation.

I have Kansas going to Las Vegas and getting wins over UConn in the Sweet 16 and Gonzaga in the Elite 8 to advance to the national semifinals.

In Houston, I have them playing against the University of Houston and beating them in their own house. I think the Jayhawks are going to be firing on all cylinders. In my opinion, Kansas is the best team in the country pound-for-pound when they are playing their best.

DeJaun Harris protecting the basketball and getting into a rhythm will be a crucial part of them making a deep run. Where he goes, the team goes as well. If he’s not playing well, Kansas struggles to win basketball games.

We all know that Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick will get theirs and play well every night, but the rotational guys like Harris, McCullar and Adams are the key.

Bill Self will have this team playing at their best every step of the way leading them to cutting down the nets and becoming the second team in the last 50 years to win back-to-back titles after defeating Marquette in the national title game 81-71 and getting revenging for their 2011 Elite 8 loss to VCU.

©2024 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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