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Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 NCAA Tournament champ? Pick Jayhawks

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There are many reasons not to pick Kansas, and once again I will ignore them all.

Does Kansas have strong enough point-guard play to win the 2011 national title? Maybe not.

Will the weight of the Jayhawks’ past tournament failures grind their gears in the early rounds once again? Watch out!

After I was burned picking Kansas last year, will I doom KU and myself by doing it this year, too? Obviously, it’s possible.

But Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the Southwest Region, is still the pick — via a clean, clinical process of elimination.

Basically, it’s easy to find fault with Kansas, especially after last season’s second-round flameout as the No. 1 overall seed. But it’s even easier to eliminate the remaining 67 teams.

Here’s why I didn’t eliminate Kansas: Behind twin power forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, the Jayhawks lead the nation in field-goal percentage (by far) and have enough perimeter talent to take advantage of collapsing defenses.

Kansas also is 19th in rebounding, and that is a great combination.

In fact, five of the past nine national champions, including the Jayhawks in 2008, were top-22 teams in both field goal percentage and rebounding that season.

That means you’re efficient enough to maximize your offensive possessions and you’re strong enough to get more possessions for yourself via the glasswork.

Which is great for tournament play. So I’m picking Kansas.

And here’s how I eliminated the other top contenders:

• Ohio State, this year’s No. 1 overall seed, is out because it has point-guard issues, too, and because the Buckeyes’ region drew the toughest No. 2 (North Carolina) and toughest No. 4 (Kentucky) in the brackets.

Despite my general discounting of John Calipari in the tournament, I’ve got his red-hot Kentucky team beating Ohio State in the East regional semifinals and then getting to the national championship game.

• Notre Dame is out because it’s the No. 2 seed in Kansas’ region, and if those two teams meet, the Jayhawks have too much firepower to lose in that potential regional final.

• Pittsburgh, the Southeast No. 1, is out because there always comes a time when the Panthers have to make a couple of late baskets in the tournament, and they never do.

One side note: Pitt joins Kansas as the only teams in the top 22 in both field-goal percentage and rebounding.

I’ve got Pitt making it to the Final Four but getting stopped by Kansas in the national semifinals.

• Duke, the West No. 1, is out because the Blue Devils finally got a very, very difficult draw.

Duke probably will face tough No. 4 Texas in the regional semifinal round, and if it survives that, I can’t see Duke knocking off No. 2 San Diego State in Anaheim in the regional finals.

• I’ve got San Diego State getting to the Final Four, but the Aztecs probably don’t have the octane to win six in a row. I’ve got them losing to Kentucky in the national semis.

• I’m not picking Kentucky to win it all, however, due to general Calipari reasons.

He hasn’t won a national title and probably never will. This year, I think Calipari will come close again — as he did with Memphis in 2008.

And what team beat Calipari in the national title game that year? None other than Kansas. It’s like magic how that happens.

Some other things that stick out to me in the 2011 brackets:

• If you’re looking for early upsets, I’m circling No. 13 Belmont over struggling No. 4 Wisconsin in the Southeast and No. 14 Bucknell over exhausted No. 3 Connecticut in the West.

• Michigan State and Washington are always good teams to move deep into the brackets, but this year they both could be in some trouble.

I like No. 10 Michigan State over No. 7 UCLA early in the Southeast, but the Spartans probably won’t get past No. 2 Florida in the next round.

East No. 7 Washington might have shot in the Round of 32 against rollercoaster No. 2 North Carolina — if the game were anywhere but in Charlotte.

There could be some quality Sweet 16 games, including:

• If USC gets through the first-round game and also knocks off Georgetown and weak No. 3 Purdue, there’d be a potential meeting with No. 2 Notre Dame in the Southwest region.

Even without Reggie Bush and Brady Quinn involved, I’d watch that one.

If form holds in the Southeast, it’d be No. 2 Florida vs. Jimmer Fredette and No. 3 Brigham Young.

And though I’ve got Ohio State losing to Kentucky in the East semis, if the Buckeyes survive there, they could clearly win the whole thing.

I think Ohio State is the second-best team in the nation. Right behind Kansas. If Kansas doesn’t screw it all up again.

Comments

100 8 years, 8 months ago

Still a lot of disrespect going on from the seeding committee regarding the Jayhawks loss to Texas.

If they realized the fact that none of our players had sleep before the game, we would be the #1 overall seed.... That's disrespect Jayhawks.

Call it what you want.... But that's like a kid slapping you when you're not looking and walking the other way.

Disrespect is disrespect.

That loss to UT at Allen Fieldhouse has not been forgotten by the national press.

There's only one thing to do:

Carry that UT chip Jayhawks....

Play championship defense. Pass the ball. Get it to the Morris brothers.... And let the Morris brothers lead the way....

Win the next 6 games..... Get our respect back...

And have one helluva parade.....

Steve Gantz 8 years, 8 months ago

We got the #1 seed and arguably the easiest path to the final 4. Not sure if that's disrespect.

aerohawk 8 years, 8 months ago

I don't care what they say they rank us, I care about the match ups. I agree with you that our path is good.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 8 months ago

Man, I like the praise this guy from San Jose gave the Jayhawks, but I don't agree with many of his opinions.

I don't think Ohio State has PG issues at all. Just because the Craft kid doesn't start for Ohio State, he finishes most games and averages 30 minutes a game for the Buckeyes. Despite being a freshman, that Craft kid is tough as nails and would have him as my pg anyday. Between, Buford, Lighty, and Craft Ohio State is just fine. The only thing that hurts them is depth as they only really go 7 deep.

I don't agree with his San Diego State Pick and I don't agree with his comment about Florida. I think UCLA or MSU beats Florida.

jayhawktalk 8 years, 8 months ago

I like the way you think. Agree 100%. Also questioning the guy's reasoning as to Pitt, basically saying, "they always miss some crucial shots, at some point..." If that's the biggest knock against you, I think you're in pretty good shape.

"Weak Purdue"? Huh? I've watched them about 5 times this year, and was never left with the impression that they are weak. With Louisville having no inside presence (I think Vitale projected them as a Final 4 team), Purdue scares me the most in KU's region. Notre Dame would be my second worry, if they can beat Purdue, but their lack of athleticism makes me less nervous if we face them... Likely, I am not giving ND their due based on the eye test, as they have found a way to win. Really hoping A&M puts them out of my misery, as I hate watching this Hansbrough even more than I hated watching his older brother.

Florida a 2 seed... What a joke. The entire SEC sucked this year. While I'm not going to do it, if there were a 2 seed I would predict to fall in the first round, it would be Florida. ...Let's see how UK does on the road playing teams outside the weak SEC.

David Lara 8 years, 8 months ago

I like a lot of what you are saying here. ND seems to have an "it" factor of some sort, which belies their appearance. For one thing, the more I watch Hansbrough, the more I see Jarod Haase. The dude is all go all the time. Gotta like that, as well as his desire to will his team to victory. Good teams need that kind of player and that makes them formidable. Not to mention they can shoot the lights out, which is the only scenario in which I can see them taking down the hawks. As long as our guards show up and lock down the perimeter, they will have no inside answer for the twins.

While Purdue may not be weak as you say, they do show weaknesses and did not finish playing their best ball, so I see what he is saying.

As long as CS reminds these guys before every game that ANYONE can go home at ANYTIME, regardless of who they are playing. You have to bring you absolute best and play each game like it's your last or it definitely will be. They have to have that "fear of God" in the back of their minds as they prepare and play each game this postseason. This team can let their confidence get the best of them and phone it in at times. Luckily they have been able to make adjustments at half and get their minds straight on many of those occasions in order to pull out some close wins, but if they come out with less than their best even once.... there may not be enough time to counter it.

And for heaven's sake, Tyshawn, don't you dare go back to your old ways! Keep your focus and your killer instinct and the rest of the team will feed on that. Earn yourself a place among the elite by showing the world you can lead this team where they are meant to go. And Elijah, if Ty doesn't have what it takes to do that, I know you do and you have my every confidence as the leader this team needs.

Rock 'em chalk 'em

Alohahawk 8 years, 8 months ago

Although I may not agree with all of Mr. Kawakami's choices, I like the fact that he used some logic to pick his champion, and didn't just spin a bottle. Let all the other seeds, #'s 1 to #16, fight it out to play Kansas for the championship. The #1 seed in the Southwest Region will win it all.

Kansas didn't receive the respect they deserved after beating Texas. How can anyone in their right mind drop Texas to a #4 seed. Same with the low seeding for the other Big 12 teams, and the Colorado snub. Maybe they remembered last year's flame out by KU. But that was last year. It's obvious the committee thinks the Big 12 isn't up to par with the other BCS schools. The truth will be in the pudding. I say at least 4, if not all 5 of the Big 12 entries, make the sweet 16.

One at a time, Hawks. Boston U, you're first. RCJHGKU

Ben Simonett 8 years, 8 months ago

Aloha,

The big 12s representative on the selection committee this year was a conference director, not an athletic director. The way the selection committee works since he was a conference representative and not an individual school representative he had to leave the room when ANY big 12 school was discussed as opposed to leaving the room when just your school is discussed, as is the protocol for school ADs.

its quite obvious the big 12 lacked its advocate in the selection process this season.

Alohahawk 8 years, 8 months ago

Exactly what I just said. No respect. What does it matter that the Big 12 representative had to leave the room? The other members of the committee had no faith in the Big 12. They obviously hadn't watched very many, if any, of the Big 12 games. So, they had to have spun a bottle and it came up empty for the Big 12 more times than not.

Paul Mitten 8 years, 8 months ago

Are we so insecure that we talk about disrespect when we get a friggin' #1 seed?

There's no disrespect here. We had the overall #1 seed last year and we decided not to show up to the UNI game.

Really, I don't care what our seed is or what our region looks like. If we're not of the mindset that we can beat any team anywhere at any round, we don't deserve to win the championship.

But really, it's simple. Just don't lose the games and we'll have all the respect we deserve.

As for Colorado or any other team that feels snubbed, all I say is, it's still their fault to some degree. Any of these teams could have sealed it with more quality wins and fewer bad losses, or they could have won the conference tournament. They had their chances, and that's that.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

100 is playing to the emotions of the team here. He's trying to create a mindset where the players have to play with something to prove. It's a strategy based on the well-received concept that this KU team plays better with a chip on their shoulder.

Steve Gantz 8 years, 8 months ago

That's funny, you write like the Jayhawks are reading this and basing their strategy based on what they read here!

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

I didn't write it. 100 wrote it. I just explained it the best I could.

Of course, while the players and coaches rarely, if ever, read these posts (especially this time of year) the message board grumblings often get to them one way or another.

For example, Self frequently answers questions about whether or not he's heard such and such a rumor, etc. etc.

That said, I don't think that 100 really believes that the team is going to get his message directly. But writing in such a way really can incite within you the feeling of belonging to the group, or being a part of the team. In your own mind you can put yourself in the locker room and put yourself in the game. It's kinda fun, plus if you create enough commotion on the message boards maybe the message will in fact reach Coach Self somehow... ya never know.

kerbyd 8 years, 8 months ago

Colorado got bent over. They beat Kansas St 3 times and also beat Texas and Missouri. The committee seemed to use the RPI as the only criteria to be in. There were some teams that were selected that had no wins against top teams. Your "it's their own fault" excuse is flawed.

brooksmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Are you kidding me? After we beat UNC and Memphis in '08 the illustrious panel of analysts on ESPN were digging all over the place to find any kind of praise they could find for Kansas. We still didn't get any respect because we weren't supposed to be there. After all it was the John Calisleazie show with his amazing Derrick Rose led 37-1 Memphis Tigers.

brooksmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Plus we get so much respect, Saturday night I think is was Brent Mush-head that said if we didn't beat Texas we could possibly lose our #1 seed to them. Makes you wonder what he was smoking.

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 8 months ago

What concerns me about his picking KU is that he thinks UK is going to get to the title game...that is such a laugher!!!!!

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 8 months ago

Man, ESPN's Pat Forde is on some kind of drugs...he has KSU making the Final Four with Notre Dame winning it all. Bwah ha ha!!!

TommieSmithElbow 8 years, 8 months ago

Pat Forde attended the University of Missouri, and is therefore educated with their Final Four legacy (zero) as his background. Consider the source.

milehighhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

What do you expect? He's a Mizzou grad.

Jacobpaul81 8 years, 8 months ago

Forde's making a point. No one, not even Kansas, is a sure bet in 2011. This is the most awkward looking tourney in history.

Jacobpaul81 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm picking a funky Final Four lineup - Kansas, St. Johns, Texas and West Virginia

East - Ohio State is to Freshman heavy for my taste. Same goes for UNC. West Virginia is upperclassmen heavy, coached by the best coach in their region. Add to it that the #5 seed is 50% against the 4 seed and 2 #5s made last years Final, I'm liking the older West Virginia squad.

West - Texas should be a 2-3 seed. They are great defensively. Their 1 weakness is passing. Duke is too guard heavy to beat them. Kemba Walker will have to work to get past Bucknell then Missouri then I imagine Temple. Then he's gotta go up against Texas? Give me Texas.

Southwest - Kansas vs. Notre Dame. I think everyone is predicting this. But Pitino has never lost a sweet 16 (he's been in 9) and Lon Kruger, Mark Turgeon and Bruce Webber are all great coaches. Also Richmond is a sleeper. I could see them pulling out both the 5-12 and 4-12 matchups with Vandy and Louisville. Georgetown and Purdue are both on my not-expecting much from list.

Southeast - This is the easiest bracket. I think the 5-12 and 4-13 matchups are the most likely upsets... and they won't be upsets. St Johns most difficult match-up is in it's opening round against Gonzaga. If they get out of there, Florida, UCLA and BYU are pushovers. Pitt's only real chance at a loss before the elite 8 is if KSU pulls out 2 wins. I just don't see it happening.

Finally, Kansas as winner? Why? Cause the last 7 champions have worn a shade of Blue.

Funhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

Jacobpaul81 is using good logic. Go funky with your final four selections. That's how the tournament plays out most years, like who would have picked Butler last year to be in the championship game.

tjg1 8 years, 8 months ago

wow....my same final four and i thought i was nuts

Steve Gantz 8 years, 8 months ago

I like this scenario from San Jose. If this guy is correct, we get to beat Calipari and Kentucky in the same National Championship game! Won't that be sweet!

Alohahawk 8 years, 8 months ago

If Kenstinky and Poacher Cal make it to the championship game (which I highly doubt), wouldn't it be fitting that he had to forfeit his games like he did on his two previous trips to the final four?

Jeremy Wilhelm 8 years, 8 months ago

As HCBS said "I'm not sure we when a championship in '08 without the losses to Bradley and Bucknell (in the years before)." Almost always, a team has to have enough players who have been under the bright lights and maybe even failed miserably once or twice to understand what it takes. UNI is this teams 'killer B' - downfall becoming inspiration. Look no further than the earlier article about Marcus Morris in the locker-room post UNI: "I won't let this happen again." Not that any of this guarantees KU will win it all, but it gives me reason to think they have as good a chance as any team in the field. RCJH!

aerohawk 8 years, 8 months ago

I just can't fill out a bracket and not pick KU to win it all. I have thought about having another team win it and could never go through with it.

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

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