Kansas Jayhawks- Midwest Region Champions (31-7) Big 12
The Kansas Jayhawks entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region. After sweeping the regular season and conference tournament titles in the Big 12, the Jayhawks could have been the last No. 1 seed in the field. However, they were slotted as the No. 3 team over the Xavier Musketeers. Still, if any No. 1 seed was preparing to go down in the first-round, it was these Jayhawks. Once they survived a Round of 64 game with the Penn Quakers, it was smooth sailing for the Jayhawks. Just kidding. The Jayhawks have been in battles throughout March Madness as you will see later.
They have 1 of the 2 first-team All Americans playing in the Final Four. Devonte’ Graham was named to the first team after a stellar senior season. However, he might not be the best player on the team. Graham held the Jayhawks together until the rest of the newcomers emerged. Now, they are as well-rounded as they have ever been this season.
The Jayhawks are scoring 81.4 points per game. They are giving up 71.3 points per game. Overall, they are outscoring opponents by 10 points per game. Soon, we will see the difference during the NCAA Tournament.
Close Call: In reality, the whole entire tournament has been a close call for the Jayhawks. Even when they had the lead against the Seton Hall Pirates, the Jayhawks were unable to put them away until the final buzzer. They jumped out to a huge first half lead over the Clemson Tigers. However, the Jayhawks needed inner strength to hang on four another close win. Their biggest deficit came in the first round against the Quakers. However, the Jayhawks stormed back to take a sizable lead. Still, they needed to game-changing run to finish off the Quakers in the final minutes. Their most legitimate chance of losing came against the Duke Blue Devils when Grayson Allen’s shot was bouncing on the rim as the clock was ticking down to zero. Allen missed and the Jayhawks flourished in overtime.
Easiest Victory: The win over the Quakers was the biggest margin of victory. However, the win over the Tigers may have been the easiest. It seems like they were at ease throughout the whole game. It was a Sweet 16 matchup and Kansas controlled the game from the outset. Naturally, the tenor of the tournament would have changed if Clemson knocked down any of those desperation 3-point attempts. However, the Jayhawks knew what the Tigers were capable of and squashed that notion early. It was kind of like what they did to Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
First-Round- No. 16 Pennsylvania 76-60
Second Round- No. 8 Seton Hall 83-79
Sweet 16- No. 5 Clemson 80-76
Elite 8- No. 2 Duke 85-81
As you can see, the Jayhawks won their last three games by four points apiece. In all, their average margin of victory is seven points per game in the NCAA Tournament. Usually, a No. 1 seed shows a little semblance of dominance in the NCAA Tournament. However, these Jayhawks continue to get lucky in their toughest games. Remember, this is considered to be Bill Self’s best coaching job, ever. In an interesting note, the Jayhawks have had plenty of opportunities for double digit victories. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to put teams away. Yet, they have the composure to win close games despite opponents constantly storming back.
One play that can highlight the Jayhawks is a turnover by Graham. After forcing a Duke turnover, Graham had Svi Mykhailiuk wide open for an easy dunk. The next closer player was another Kansas teammate. However, Graham and Mykhailiuk couldn’t find a connection. The play would have put Kansas up seven points. Moments later, the Jayhawks were trailing and in dire need of a big play. This would have been the biggest moment in a loss.
The Jayhawks have five players scoring in double figures. Graham leads the team with 17.2 points per game. Mykhailiuk is second on the team with 14.7 points per game. Malik Newman is pouring in 14 points per game this season. Lagerald Vick is dropping in 12.2 points per game. Meanwhile, center Udoka Azubuike is producing 13.1 points and a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game. Even with that said, Newman is the x-factor for the Jayhawks. Since the end of the regular season, Newman is scoring 22.7 points per in the last seven games.
Current Streak- seven games: After clinching the Big 12, the Jayhawks lost their season finale to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Otherwise, they finished the Big 12 season with five straight wins. As a result, the Jayhawks won 12 of their last 13 games. Still, the Jayhawks have won the fewest amount of games of all the Final Four teams. Yet, they are as hot as any team entering the Final Four. The Jayhawks will face fellow No. 1 seed Villanova Wildcats in the Final Four.