Big 12 Basketball

Kansas Poised to Make Run at Second-Consecutive National Championship

Jalen Wilson

The Kansas Jayhawks may be feeling a bit slighted after missing out on the one seed in the Midwest Region after the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets were released on Sunday afternoon. After all, a one seed in the Midwest would have given the Jayhawks a straight-forward path to the Final Four: Playing in Des Moines, Iowa for the rounds of 64 and 32 and then Kansas City for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

The path won’t be quite as easy for Kansas after it was announced the Jayhawks would be the one-seed in the West. They’ll still get to play in Des Moines for the opening rounds, but if they can survive and advance to the Sweet 16, the team will be traveling to Las Vegas the following weekend vs playing up the road from Lawrence, KS at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.


The Jayhawks can use this “slight” as motivation, but they shouldn’t feel too bad about the position they find themselves in heading into the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Kansas lost 70% of their 2022 National Championship roster and there were questions about what kind of team these Jayhawks would turn into. Head coach Bill Self and company answered the bell and showed up in a big way, winning the Big 12 regular season championship.

When you think about where Kansas’s 2022 National Championship opponent, North Carolina, ended up, it makes this season look even more incredible for the Jayhawks. The Tar Heels, who started the season ranked #1 in the nation, missed the NCAA Tournament completely in 2023. They were invited to play in the N.I.T. but respectfully declined the invite to play in that tournament. Kansas, on the other hand, is right back in the mix as one of the favorites to win the National Championship again. Despite being snubbed out of the Midwest, things aren’t as bad as they seem for the Jayhawks.


Now it’s time for Self and the team to transform into March Madness mode. Kansas will take on Howard at 1:00 pm CT on TBS in a 1 vs 16 matchups that should see the Jayhawks run away with a win. KU is a 22-point favorite heading into this one. Assuming Kansas can come out of the first round with a win, the Jayhawks will take on the winner of Arkansas vs Illinois. There’s the potential for good storylines if KU matches up against either of those opponents. Self is the former head coach of the Illini and the Kansas football team is recently coming off a close bowl loss to the Razorbacks. I’m sure some friendly banter between fan bases would be had no matter who KU’s opponent would be.

The bottom half of the West bracket looks challenging. A potential matchup with UCONN in the Sweet 16 would not be a walk in the park for the Jayhawks. UConn is being viewed as one of the Top 12 teams in this tournament from prognosticators around the nation. Gonzaga is the three seed and has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month. They are always a dangerous team and have solid veteran leadership this year to go along with the great coaching from Mark Few. UCLA has been a Top 10 team in the country all year long and they are the two seed in the West. Gonzaga and UCLA would theoretically have the advantage of playing in Las Vegas as well. However, we all know Kansas fans will travel and a trip to Vegas to see the Jayhawks play wouldn’t be a bad consolation to staying near home in Kansas City.


The health of Self and senior forward Kevin McCullar Jr will be critical to KU’s run in this tournament. Self was hospitalized this past week and missed coaching in the Big 12 tournament. He’s said he will be back with the team for the “best time of the year” and it led most to believe he will coach. That said, he should be considered day-to-day. McCullar had back spasms throughout the Big 12 tournament, and while he played in the first two games in a limited role, he missed the Big 12 Championship game .The Jayhawks missed McCullar’s defensive dominance and ability to keep the opponent off the boards. The Jayhawks will need their Naismith National Coach of the Year candidate and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year
candidate to be there going forward to make a deep run in the tourney.

This season Kansas proved it has what it takes to play with, and beat, anyone in the country. Being shipped out West doesn’t come without its challenges, but Kansas will be up to the task. The road back to the Final Four starts Thursday in Des Moines and the Jayhawks have their eyes set on winning their second consecutive National Championship.

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