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Kansas Basketball Has a Chance to Flip the Postseason Switch in March

Kansas Basketball: Hunter Dickinson

Three things are certain in this life: death, taxes, and Kansas basketball playing in the NCAA tournament. It’s inevitable. I’ve lived in Kansas since 1990, and the Jayhawks have not missed an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament in that time frame. They are a blue blood program, and there’s no denying the domination and success surrounding the Kansas basketball program over many generations.

Kansas ran through a tough non-conference slate, only losing one game during that time frame before conference play began in early January. The Jayhawks had some surprising losses early in conference play and have not played well on the road against conference opponents. To be fair to KU, winning on the road in the Big 12 is tough. Losing a majority of their road conference games isn’t just a KU problem; all of the teams in the conference deal with that.

 

Kansas fans have just been spoiled in past years.

The 2023-24 team doesn’t have a deep bench and has been dealing with an injury to a key player, so some of those games that KU might’ve won in the past have fallen into the loss column. It doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

The Jayhawks may seek inspiration from a professional football team up I-70. The Kansas City Chiefs, a perennial playoff contender in the NFL and now back-to-back Super Bowl champions, went through some growing pains this past season. Receivers had a bad case of the drops; they dealt with injuries and lost to teams that they weren’t “supposed” to lose to.

Sound familiar, Jayhawk fans? Do you know what else the Chiefs had? Playoff experience, veteran leadership, and a Hall-of-Fame head coach.

 

Another thing that can connect these two teams is the near certainty of the postseason. Going into the football season, the Chiefs were expected to win their division and be in the playoffs. For the Jayhawks, and in college basketball, it’s a little different. Teams don’t necessarily have to win the conference to get into the big dance, though that does get an automatic bid. When the Jayhawks finished non-conference play with a 12-1 record, they were a lock to make the NCAA tournament unless there was an implosion like we’ve never seen from a Top 10 team. Whether these teams want to admit it or not, sometimes complacency can take over when they know postseason play is inevitable. These players are human and aren’t immune to the grind of a long season.

Maybe the focus isn’t always there during the regular season. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be, but that could be an element to some dips during the season’s grind. The Chiefs were able to turn a page as the calendar flipped to January. They lifted their game when the playoffs rolled around and were able to capture another Super Bowl despite being underdogs along the way. Can the Jayhawks replicate the same success when the calendar turns to March?

 

If Kansas has their starting five healthy, they are right up there with the best starting five in America. They have wins over the current #1, #2, and #5 teams in the nation. No other team in college basketball can touch that resume. Johnny Furphy has come on strong as the fifth guy in the starting lineup. Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr are likely All-Americans. DeJuan Harris Jr is one of the most underrated point guards in college basketball. KJ Adams Jr is the spark plug that keeps the team moving along.

This is a solid group and when you get in the dance, anything can happen. Since before the season started, these Jayhawks knew they were playing for March.

A regular-season Big 12 championship may not be in the cards, but a Final Four run and playing for a national championship could be a nice consolation prize.

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