The Santa Clara
February 22, 2017
The Kansas Jayhawks have to be the favorite heading into March Madness after completing one of the best stretches in college basketball’s recent memory.
The Jayhawks went 6-2 in eight tough games, including four match-ups against teams ranked in the top 10. They twice beat a top-five team in Baylor, went to Rupp Arena and beat No. 4 Kentucky and broke a West Virginia press that took them to overtime.
All but one of the games came down to the wire, including a couple of overtime contests, showcasing Kansas’ ability to consistently make plays coming down the stretch. This ability to perform in crunch time is absolutely critical to the success of teams in the NCAA tournament.
The Jayhawks have the best back-court in the country and it’s beyond the point of discussion. Upperclassmen Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are the most talented and experienced guard duo in the country and have support from budding superstar Josh Jackson on the wing.
At this point, the only thing that can derail Kansas is themselves. After many allegations surrounding the team, including separate incidents of sexual harassment and vandalism by players, Coach Bill Self’s club has demonstrated a tendency to get into trouble.
Kansas’ biggest competition is Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, out of the West Coast Conference, are as complete a team as you will find in the nation.
Przemek Karnowski is a premier low-post offensive player, shooting 60.4 percent from the field. The advantage that Gonzaga has over many teams is its depth, especially at the guard position. Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson are all high-quality back-court offensive threats, giving the Zags plenty of options. Hopes are as high as they have ever been in Spokane for the 28-0 Bulldogs.
But what gives Kansas the edge over a team like Gonzaga is that no other team in the country has proven that they can play consistently against great teams. Gonzaga’s undefeated record is impressive but their best win came at home against then No. 16 Arizona without Allonzo Trier on Dec. 3.
That is a very different result than the Jayhawks 67-65 win at No. 4 Baylor on Feb. 16. While Gonzaga has been coasting through their easy WCC schedule, Kansas has been grinding out victories against the nation’s toughest opponents, the best way to improve for March.
Gonzaga passes the eye test and has all the parts of a great team, but they have not proven anything yet. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are on their way to their thirteenth straight conference championship in a season where the Big 12 is as competitive as ever. It’s not all about wins and losses; it’s about the quality of play on the court. Come tournament time, Kansas will prove their the best team in college basketball.
Bo Kendall is a sophomore communication major.