The Kansas Jayhawks enter March Madness coming off a disappointing upset loss to TCU in the Big 12 quarterfinal, but it wasn’t enough to keep them out of a No. 1 seed. Kansas has been near or at the top of the NCAA championship futures oddsboard and Top 25 polls all season long and is expected to make a deep run in this year’s tourney.
With odds of +800 to win the whole damn thing, Kansas is in familiar territory as the Jayhawks went into last year’s tournament as the favorite to win it all, only to suffer a disappointing loss to eventual champion Villanova in the Elite Eight. Kansas always seems to be in the mix come March but has come up much too short more often than not since winning the national championship in 2008.
There is, however, lots of evidence that the Jayhawks might once again be on the verge of greatness. Here’s why they could be the last team standing at the end of the tournament.
They’ve beaten some of the best in the nation
Kansas ripped through the Big 12, posting a 16-2 conference record that included a 3-1 slate against the other ranked teams in the conference, Baylor and West Virginia. The regular season was also highlighted by victories outside of the conference as the Jayhawks posted wins over March Madness contenders Duke and Kentucky. Something to consider as they come into the tournament off a loss is that their wins over Duke and Kentucky this season were immediately after a loss — proof that this team bounces back and won’t allow past failures to get the better of it.
Best one-two punch in the nation
How can you possibly plan for the two-headed attack of Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson? I’m sure teams will come up with something, but they’ll likely fail. The two guards combined for 37.2 points per game this season, which is tops among any duo on No. 1-seeded teams. Mason, specifically, has been unstoppable down the stretch as he’s averaged 22.7 PPG since February 4. The likely AP Player of the Year appears to be entering the tourney playing his best ball of the year as he’s scored 57 points in his past two games, shooting 51.6 percent from the field.
To make matters even more complicated for defenses, the Jayhawks pair Mason III with Devonte’ Graham in the backcourt. Playing the two point guards together has given opposing defenses headaches, as their combined scoring and playmaking instincts paved the way to many victories.
They don’t get tight in tight games
March Madness games often come down to the final seconds and this is an area where Kansas excelled this season. The Jayhawks went 5-1 in games decided by three points or less during the regular season and, even more impressively, they went 11-1 in games decided by six points or less.
Spread bettors will also want to keep in mind that Kansas was on the right side of many blowout wins this season. Fifteen of their 28 wins were by double digits, with eight of those coming by 17 points or more.